This year’s Commemoration weekend celebrations began in a suitably festive spirit at the Friday evening concert. Celebrations began with Walton’s ever-popular coronation march, Crown Imperial, brought to life with considerable patriotic pomp and vigour by the orchestra, from the quietly energetic opening to the great sweeping melody which ends the work, creating in the Bacon Theatre a great sense of occasion, ceremony and expectation for the rest of the evening.
After such celebratory bluster, a moment of light refreshment was in order, and this was supplied perfectly by Close Harmony’s performance of the well-known madrigal Now is the Month of Maying, which was characterised by its buoyant and jovial manner, welcoming in the summer months.
The Union-Jack design on the front of the programme seemed to promise to the audience a selection of British favourites, and they were by no means disappointed, as next came the Sinfonia to play Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma Variations. This was sensitively performed by all, and the long lyrical melody was made all the more moving by the intimate strings-only arrangement. This was followed by Tsintsade’s Georgian Folk Song, opening with a deeply expressive cello solo imitating the style of traditional Jewish song, played with great feeling by Jonny Woods. The theatre was at this point filled with a mystic atmosphere, which was then suddenly broken as the rest of the players took up the lively and relentless dance which formed the second section of the work.
Jonny Woods, Louis Morford and Janice Ng took centre stage in the third movement of Brahms’ Trio for Piano, Violin and Horn. This movement, though presenting considerable and equal technical and musical challenges in all three instruments, was executed with considerable professionalism and assurance by the three scholars, making the most of the spirited interplay and energetic style.
The Chamber Choir came on to perform a selection of songs from the United States. Beginning with Barber’s intimate Sure on this shining night, the text of which seemed to sum up perfectly the atmosphere of the evening, this was then followed with a set of four of Copland’s Old American Songs. The final song, I got me a cat, was sung with suitable humour as the audience was given musical caricatures of various animals including a horse, a pig, a cat, a goose, and a remarkably vocal duck.
The orchestra returned to the stage for a finale performance of Bruch’s celebrated Violin Concerto no.1 in G minor, featuring its brilliant leader for the past four years, Louis Morford, as soloist. Having been voted the number one work in the Classic FM Hall of Fame 1996, this concerto is a staple of the repertoire, loved by soloists and audiences alike for its perfect blend of beautiful melodic writing and technical fireworks for the soloist. However, Louis performed every musical and technical challenge that the piece threw his way, allowing his musicianship and insight into the work to shine through. This would not have been possible if not for the secure and unwavering support given to him by the rest of the orchestra, conducted expertly by Helen Porter, from lyrically flowing 2nd movement, to the brilliantly energetic 3rd movement, racing ever faster to its thrilling close.
The evening was drawn to a close by the fabulous jazz band, who accompanied the post-concert drinks on the terrace so fittingly with a range of jazz classics, providing the perfect counterpoint to what had come before.