<< -- 3 -- Keith Bramich COMING OF AGE
It was that time at the end of the summer when the days begin to shorten, and
during the interval we queued at a tent in the churchyard for our drinks, then stood
in small groups for a few minutes of animated conversation, performers,
audience, visiting composers, their publishers, journalists and festival organisers
all together, as the
last of the daylight faded from the sky ... one of those special Presteigne moments.
Interval drinks over, the audience begins to return to St Andrews Church. Photo: Keith Bramich
Then to end the first concert, the Copland, with the orchestra at full strength
for the complete ballet music from the Library of Congress, tender flute
solos from Kathryn Thomas and the skilful piano playing of Catherine Milledge.
The music, of course, so well-known that it's obvious to everyone which
sections don't normally get an airing in the more usual concert version.
I felt that this more familiar version makes better musical sense, and that the
extra music, whilst fascinating, detracts from the unity of the piece. In particular,
the arrival and handling of the 'Simple Gifts' Shaker tune seems more
clumsy in the original. Dangerous, though, to judge ballet music on the strength
of concert performances without the choreography, and I guess that, in particular,
the dark fast section immediately following 'Simple Gifts' in the complete version,
probably complemented some on-stage action.
It's a source of amazement, by the way, at the start
of each Presteigne Festival, how quickly its youthful chamber orchestra gels
by the start of the first concert -- the orchestra's
members arrive, generally, the day before the festival begins.
The 2003 Festival's diverse coverage of contemporary orchestral music showed
us just how flexible this performing group can be. The orchestra was
led this year by Dominic Jewel, who you might have spotted on BBC Television
playing first desk in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales during the
'Last night of the Proms'.
Copyright © 5 October 2003
Keith Bramich, London UK