The English Chamber Orchestra
Michael DrakeSt Andrew's Hall, Norwich (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)Michael Drake
St Andrew's Hall, Norwich (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)
The Festival programmers could hardly have bettered the resounding opening concert on Saturday. Following Haydn and Mozart might have been a tall order. But not for the ground-breaking Beethoven, even though influenced by those earlier composers in his Symphony No.1 in C. It began the concert as the languid start was followed by a martial Allegro containing some particularly fluid woodwind.
Conducted by David Parry (whose foot-stamping became a little distracting) the ebullient ECO moved to a percussive Scherzo which became (dare I say it of Beethoven?) quite skittish as a precursor to a vigorous finale of considerable pace.
Some 20 years later Ludwig van B was in a different musical world of huge dimensions and the orchestra had an early opportunity to put their full weight behind Symphony No 9 in D minor, Choral, with thrilling sounds as the opening Allegro progressed.
The unusually placed Scherzo, itself no lightweight, had a centre of much fun especially in 'cello and woodwind-led sections before mellow horns followed the strings in a calming slow movement of contrasting gentility. And what a mesmerising few bars there were as the 'cellos set the finale's theme.
The solo quartet of Camilla Roberts, Yvonne Howard, Gwyn Hughes-Jones and Sian Goronwy, although set behind the orchestra, had no difficulty in projecting, and despite the herculean demands on it the Festival Chorus never flagged in some exciting singing - chorus master Terry Edwards had trained them very well. To paraphrase the lines of Schiller, they all raised their voices and made joyful sounds.
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