Sinfonia ViVA at Derby's Guildhall
enjoyed by MIKE WHEELER
As a small, intimate venue, Derby's Guildhall makes a surprisingly effective setting for a chamber orchestra of this size. The sound has great immediacy, but it is not so resonant as to become oppressive.
Guest conductor Alexander Briger comes with an impressive CV, and his lively, intelligent conducting, coupled with ViVA's warmly responsive playing, made for an enjoyable evening. It was an intriguing programme, too -- a couple of English song-cycles slotted into a framework of Austro-German classics. A sprightly, elegant reading of Mozart's Paris Symphony was followed by a vibrant account of Wagner's Siegfried Idyll which had all the warmth you could want, but which was kept on the move and avoided becoming unduly sticky.
Baritone Grant Doyle joined the orchestra for the two English works. He has a richly resonant voice, though he is inclined to sing at full throttle a bit too readily. The jollier numbers of Finzi's Let us Garlands Bring were more effective than the more introverted songs, with an over-dramatic approach to 'Fear no More the Heat of the Sun' undermining the effect of a song that makes its devastating impact through understatement.
Vaughan Williams's more robust manner in five of his Songs of Travel suited Doyle better, with a fine sense of defiance in 'The Vagabond'. Omitting 'Whither must I Wander?' meant that the quotation of it in the final song lost its point.
Beethoven's youthful exuberance was given its head in the performance of the First Symphony which ended the evening. Ignoring the first section repeats in the first two movements but observing the structurally less important ones in the third movement reprise was questionable. But there was plenty of punchy dynamism -- tempered by just enough sensitivity -- in the outer movements, a good flowing tempo for the second, and the third movement was allowed to rampage and guffaw to its heart's content.