Sinfonia of Birmingham at Pershore Abbey


Pershore Abbey ****

Pershore is a gratifyingly parking-friendly town, with plenty of free spaces available to the visitor, not least in the vicinity of its magnificent Abbey. This splendid building chose the equally splendid Sinfonia of Birmingham to perform the first concert there since the beginning of the pandemic, and the atmosphere could not have been more welcoming.

The programme was all-Nordic, yet both works were conceived on Mediterranean shores. Nielsen's Helios Overture, inspired by a visit to Greece,, sounded a little unwarmed-up at the outset, but soon settled under Michael Seal's wise, communicative and unextragavant baton. Seal balanced volume and detail with a sure sense of structural growth, securing an almost Russian sturdiness of sound at full chordal passages.
Sibelius' Second Symphony , engendered in Italy, drew from the strings, authoritatively and enthusiastically led by Julia Aberg, a rich, well-cushioned sound, along with spectacularly unanimous pizzicati. Woodwinds were eloquent and characterful (I just have to mention the wonderful oboe contribution, whether chattering or soulful), and though there were a few squeezed notes from the brass they brought noble weight to this emotional journey.
Operating under the tenet that less means more, Seal's conducting trusts the players he has obviously well rehearsed to allow him to manipulate their response with the slightest gesture, sometimes even just a swift cup to his ear. His grip on the scores under his trust is awesome indeed.
Seal persuades these willing amateurs to music-making of the highest order. Birmingham is lucky to have itself mentioned in the orchestra's name.
Christopher Morley

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