Orchestra of the Swan 8.2.22

ENTHRALLING ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN PROGRAMME

ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN
Stratford Play House ****
What was remarkable about this programme from Orchestra of the Swan was that none of the works on offer dated from earlier than 1909, and stretched forward until as recently as 2006. Yet it attracted a full, largely silver-haired audience enthusiastic in its applause, and it made for a truly happy evening.
Of course the star soloist in the form of local boy Peter Donohoe may have added to the attraction. He gave a sparkling, deft account of Ravel's delicious G major Piano Concerto, fizzing, involving, and seamlessly singing in the slow movement's slow, lullaby-like waltz. Here he had the musicianly humility to resort to printed music as he sensitively accompanied Louise Braithwaite's heartstopping cor anglais solo, not wishing to let her down with any memory lapses. It was an extraordinary few minutes.
Other wonderful solo contributions came from the magical, otherworldly harp, the fey, dancing flute, and a particularly truculent trombone leavening the delicacy of so much of Ravel's writing.
Ravel's finale has the busy figurations of the baroque French clavecinistes, and in fact preceding the concerto were Thomas Ades' Three Studies from Couperin. These arrangements for two small orchestras were by turns pulsating, cork-popping, and tender almost in the manner of elegiac Purcell, and were expertly delivered under Michael Collins' direction.
Winds and percussion were to the fore here, but before this the strings had totally covered themselves with glory in John Adams' Shaker Loops, a work almost symphonically structured, and of a length and energy which demands huge stamina and concentration from the players. The OOTS musicians' bows carved endlessly back and forth, creating a context in which sudden double-bass pizzicatos made a tremendous impression in this multi-layered kaleidoscope of colours and textures, and an eventual resolution into striking unisons was almost cathartic. It went down a storm.
We had begun with Vaughan Williams' Wasps overture, acknowledging his sesquicentenary year, tempi well-chosen,and beautifully phrased. Unfortunately the sound from the orchestra was unrefined in this boxy acoustic. There would be a problem, too, in the Ravel, the piano-lid opened to only half-stick, perhaps not to obscure the audience's sight-lines, but to the detriment of full projection of Ravel's glorious subtleties.
Christopher Morley

Popular posts from this blog

Birmingham Opera Company's RhineGold

CBSO Covid Requiem review

The CBSO gives an American cantata a long-delayed UK premiere