Orchestra of St John in Bromsgrove by Christopher Morley
Bromsgrove's Orchestra of St John is an ensemble which exudes pleasure in its companionable music-making. It also vaults with ambition, and this programme was its most demanding yet, calling upon two-and-a-half--hour's worth of reserves of concentration and stamina.
Elgar's Violin Concerto requires both muscularity and delicacy from soloist and orchestra alike, qualities abundantly in evidence here. Soloist Charlotte Moseley was fearless in her approach, her initial entry throatily rich in tone and indicative of the emotional odyssey to follow.
Her bowing was generous and supple, her lyrical interludes unfolded with a regretful wisdom beyond her years, and her multiple-stopped journey through the finale's tortuous and tortured cadenza was triumphantly achieved -- what a smile from her as the concluding bars arrived.
Moseley and conductor Richard Jenkinson maintained an eye-contact of mutual trust throughout this performance of rhapsodic tempo-shifts and sudden dynamic changes, Jenkinson's OSJ always phrasing with "lift" and affection.
After this mighty work came one even more imposing, Beethoven's Choral Symphony, completing OSJ's heroic cycle of all nine of the composer's symphonies.
And now Charlotte Moseley was concert-master (one remembers the story of how Fritz Kreisler, having premiered the Elgar "white as a sheet", crept onto the back desks of the first violins to warm down in the subsequent performance of Elgar's First Symphony), leading with meticulous aplomb.
There was little sense of cosmic mystery offered by this boxy acoustic, so Jenkinson's reading was sensibly gruff and onward-moving, relaxing at last only in the otherworldly adagio. Despite one tense episode of miscounting here, this was a genuinely moving movement; horns had been magnificent throughout, and Claire Burnell's delivery of the famously exposed solo was wonderful.
Jenkinson should have burst immediately into the dissonance of the finale's opening, but, as throughout the concert, gaps between movements were too long. Never mind; the music gripped with enthusiasm and commitment, the Chorus of the Orchestra of St John, squeezed onto the chancel (and haphazardly attired) sang with disciplined gusto (marvellous extended top A from the sopranos), and the efficient solo quartet (Jane Stevenson a valuable fulcrum in the Cinderella mezzo part) crowned a heartening experience.
*Repeated in Worcester Cathedral on May 5 (7.30pm).