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Elegance and Agility

Bach, Arnold and Haydn
from Sinfonia Viva in Derby Cathedral,
enjoyed by MIKE WHEELER


Two months after stepping down as Viva's Principal Conductor, Nicholas Kok was back in his new capacity as Principal Guest Conductor [Thursday 22 June 2006, Derby Cathedral, UK].

The Bach Suites that started each half were given crisp, stylish performances. In No 1, the decision to seat the oboes and bassoon at the front paid off in terms of balance and sonority, while Viva's principal flute Rachel Holt (uncredited in the programme for some reason) negotiated her part in No 2 with both elegance and agililty. The bourrées in both suites were taken at recklessly fast speeds; while there was no sense of the music being driven too hard, it was perhaps a bit much for the Cathedral's generous acoustic to cope with.

Craig Ogden was the eloquent soloist in Malcolm Arnold's Guitar Concerto, handling the first movement with flair and exuberance, and allowing the catchy hit tune to make its point without undue lingering. The finale was graceful and elegant. But the slow movement, ostensibly a tribute to Django Reinhardt, is the work's emotional core. Soloist and orchestra looked unflinchingly into the darkness beneath Arnold's ebullience, producing as scarily intense a reading as I can remember.

Haydn's 'Farewell' Symphony ended the evening, a performance full of vigour and urgency in the outer movements and bringing a touch of poignancy to the final pages as the musicians left one by one.

Copyright © 1 July 2006 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK







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