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<<  -- 2 --  Rex Harley    AN AMBITIOUS CONCERT


Why do the Marche Slave in this concert? After all, it's not the most obvious counterpart to either the Szymanowski, or the Lutoslawski of the second half. The answer lies in the fact that this is a college orchestra, and the programming is very sensibly done in such a way as to give its players the chance to experience as wide a range of material as possible, before they take up their chosen profession. The variety, on this particular evening, lay as much in the musical notation, and the demands made on the orchestral players, as in the style or period of the pieces played. And the most challenging of these was undoubtedly the Lutoslawski, which includes elements of improvisation.

By contrast with the Szymanowski, and despite the challenge to audience as well as players, this performance gripped from the beginning, with the exception, perhaps of a lady in the front row. Presumably thinking that we were listening to some preliminary tuning-up, she not only carried on a lively conversation with her neighbour, but raised the volume in order to compete with the orchestra. After several bars of this, and some broad smiles from the cellists, the conductor Edwin Roxburgh was constrained to hold a note and, arms aloft, turn round and stare pointedly at the unwitting offender. This was, in itself, a masterly performance, and a measure of his confidence in the orchestra.

It was a confidence well-founded on the previous week's work in the practice room. At one point or another, all the orchestral sections, and individuals within them, are very exposed in this piece, and all rose to the occasion. Particularly attractive is the writing for the strings, which is at times somewhat reminiscent of the earlier Funeral Music. The string playing was sinewy, and tonally integrated, a lovely sound which would not disgrace a professional orchestra; particularly pleasing, bearing in mind that this one includes even first year students.

This was an ambitious concert, and relatively well attended by a very appreciative audience. Sadly, here in Cardiff, much of the programming of orchestral concerts is 'safe': nothing too modern; nothing too obscure; nothing too daring. Extra points then, to Peter Esswood and his colleagues at the Royal Welsh College, whose star, judging from this performance, certainly seems in the ascendant.

Copyright © 2 March 2003 Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK


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