National Symphony Orchestra review

JOHN LENEHAN'S EMPEROR CONCERTO AT CHELTENHAM TOWN HALL

NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Cheltenham Town Hall ****
Deprived of the regrettably-cancelled visit of an orchestra from Armenia, Cheltenham had instead to enjoy a stand-in concert from the National Symphony Orchestra, a squad of players expert in every department, and producing a wonderfully rich sound.
We began with Mozart's Marriage of Figaro Overture, big and bold under Rimma Sushanskaya's emphatic conducting, and followed with the "Emperor" Piano Concerto by Beethoven, a composer who would so have loved to have studied under Mozart.
In fact there were plenty of Mozartian qualities from the excellent soloist John Lenehan, with great clarity of detail, a persuasive balancing of textures between the hands, and a dramatic delineation of dynamics, not least in the inner musings of the slow movement – leading to a well-sprung finale and a conclusion where the timpanist and Lenehan listened to each other and faded with a moving empathy.
There had been a few lapses from both sides in this reading, but no matter. The overall effect was of huge service to Beethoven.
Tchaikovsky's Serenade to Strings concluded the evening. Sushansakya knows her scores so well, but perhaps she could have been a little less strenuous in her beat, as the NSO strings played so elegantly in this most elegant of scores. This was an account lilting and sparkling by turns, with some persuasive shaping of phrasing by Sushanskaya in a deeply-felt Elegie, violas and cellos outstanding.
Christopher Morley

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