Stratford Virtuosi Orchestra by Christopher Morley

Just completing its 17th year, Rimma Sushanskaya's week-long Virtuoso Violin festival course continues to produce results which are nothing short of breathtaking. Activities always conclude with a string orchestra concert in Shakespeare's burial-place, and this year the scratch ensemble, comprising so much talent both promising and achieved, truly deserved the title of Stratford Virtuosi Orchestra.
It was a joy to welcome American guest Roger Mahadeen to conduct the first half of the evening. Coming with an impressive CV, he drew a remarkably mature, effulgent tone from these 20 musicians playing with a freshness and enthusiasm which perhaps can only ignite at one-off occasions such as this.
In Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (for once opening a concert instead of creeping in as an encore) the cellos' singing of the chorale melody was glorious. Mendelssohn's youthful B minor String Sinfonia really caught the imagination of these youngsters, its inner lines well-detailed, its dynamics alertly shaped.
And then came the world premiere of Mahadeen's MRI Rhapsody, its six minutes packed with wonderfully allusive string gestures much as the brain undergoing a scan delivers patterns and signals.. Its performance under the composer was flowingly rich in string resonance and interaction, pizzicato a major presence during its sure sense of dramatic progression.
Rimma Sushanskaya took over the podium for the  rest of the programme, directing a well-prepared account of Variants on Themes of Grieg by Robert Matthew-Walker, for several years now a welcome presence at this festival.
The piece begins with cadential rustlings before moving onto an intriguing web of quotes from the great Norwegian composer, all conveyed with a wonderful ear for string sonorities.
Some of the ideas here seemed underdeveloped; any extension of this attractive work would not mean an outstaying of welcome.
Finally came Grieg himself, with a buoyant account of the gorgeous Holberg Suite, athletically rendered. Its many solo episodes were well-taken, and memories of its joyousness should not have been jarred by the rather soupy encore which was Gershwin's Summertime.
Christopher Morley

Popular posts from this blog

Some Enchanted Evenings at the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne