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Great panache

Derby Concert Orchestra plays Maxwell Davies,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


This week's quiz: what orchestral piece has a part for a juggling Northumbrian small pipes player? The answer is Peter Maxwell Davies's Cross Lane Fair. A look back to Max's childhood in Salford -- in his lighter, Orkney wedding vein -- it was an inspired choice for DCO's Christmas concert, in which they were joined by piper/juggler Mark Jordan and bodhran player Jonathan Gregory. The orchestra proved equal to the score's sonic demands, enjoying the Ghost Train's spooky sounds and the bleating of the Five-Legged Sheep (in what must be a dig at Strauss's Don Quixote). Jordan was as nifty in the art of keeping four balls in the air as he was on the pipes, though he had a momentary hitch strapping the pipes back on afterwards, a moment handled with unflappable good humour all round.

Peter Maxwell Davies. Photo © 2001 John Batten
Peter Maxwell Davies. Photo © 2001 John Batten

Under conductor Jonathan Trout, DCO projected the rest of the programme (3 December 2005, Derby Cathedral, UK) with equal verve. There was a fine sense of swagger to Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol and the tongue-in-check pomp and circumstance, as well as the circus high jinks, of Shostakovich's Festival Overture. The orchestra seems to have a particular flair for ballet music, with three dances from La fille mal gardée and the Prelude and Mazurka from Coppelia having a fine sense of spring to the rhythms. Occasionally the balance in heavily-scored passages favoured percussion and low brass at the expense of strings and upper woodwind.

There were fine seasonal contributions from Derby Concert Chorale, and the orchestra signed off with their usual Christmas party-piece, Leroy Anderson's Sleigh ride, played with great panache.

Copyright © 7 December 2005 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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