Orchestra Of St John - St John's Church, Bromsgrove by Christopher Morley
It's quite something when in a traditional-style programme of overture, concerto, symphony it's the overture which rouses most interest and acclaim, and this was the case when the Orchestra of St John presented its latest concert.
Hamish McCunn was 19 when he composed his overture Land of the Mountain and the Flood, a gorgeous work which guaranteed his memory through the 1970s BBCTV series Sutherland's Law (Iain Cuthbertson starring as the genial Procurator-Fiscal), as well as a couple of CD recordings. It affords wonderful opportunity for the cellos, gratefully taken here by OSJ's quartet, shaped under the enthusiastic conducting of Richard Jenkinson, himself a cellist.
All other departments responded to this inspiration, and the result was uplifting, before an event which I can only remember happening with OSJ, when the concertmaster left the leader's desk to take the mantle of concerto soloist.
Once again violinist Charlotte Moseley achieved this feat, revealing yet another masterwork in her repertoire, the Mendelssohn Concerto. She and Jenkinson found exactly the right tempi throughout, and she also had the confidence to inject eloquent pauses into the composer's own brilliantly-constructed cadenza.
Moseley has all the work's well-crafted technical demands securely under her fingers (witness the fearless double-stopping under voice-leading in the second movement), but her intonation was occasionally insecure in the exposure of singing passages.
She returned to her desk for Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, in a reading full of appropriate tension but with some approximations in ensemble. The sole double-bass player was heroic in the pell-mell of the scherzo's trio, but Jenkinson's transition into the finale failed to grow in expectation until at last he exulted in the blazing entry of the reinforcements -- piccolo, double-bassoon, and noble trombones.
John Gough's programme-notes were a constant joy. No route-maps here ("OMG, have we missed the transition into the relative submediant minor?"), distracting from the landscape, but relevant settings of context and personalities, and full of pithy insights.