Music that gets under the skin

Academy of St Thomas @ St Andrew's Hall, Norwich.

Academy of St Thomas @ St Andrew's Hall, Norwich

By Michael Drake

Certain themes or phrases can get under the musical skin. One such is in the Shostakovich Cello Concerto.

On Saturday evening, soloist Martin Storey made the magnetic, repetitive four-note motif do just that – to the extent that I overheard many during the interval repeating it to themselves and companions.

In the first movement, splendid horn echoes were added, emphasising Martin Storey's intensity before he set off on a peaceful, moderato meander above a muted underlay from the Academy. All this was in contemplative vein, contrasting with the chilling cello cadenza which followed and with the pulsating rhythm of the finale.

This was a performance which at first I thought was going to be too remote from the audience but which finally got inside them.

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Under the usual 'leading from the front' direction of conductor Christopher Adey and leader Paul Clarke, it had been a relatively low-key opening to the concert, Schumann's Overture, Scherzo and Finale, distinctly lacking depth. But it quickly picked up, moving to a jovial central movement, while in the finale here was the 'nearly Symphony No 5' which, without wallowing in the luxury, the Academy enjoyed to the full.

Finally, and straight from their recent CD, they performed Tchaikovsky's always popular Serenade for String Orchestra in which, such was the clarity, any part could be picked out. Soundly balanced, there was an expansive, flowing allegro and colourful finale with Christopher Adey bending into the music, making the whole programme so enjoyable.

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