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Elegant Playing

An eclectic programme by Sinfonia Viva,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


This concert (Assembly Rooms, Derby, UK, 26 October 2006) formed part of BBC Radio 3's nationwide 'Listen Up!' orchestra festival, and included a visual element, the plans for which won one of the festival's Concert Presentation awards; more of that later.

Wayne Marshall conducted a delightfully eclectic programme, starting with the suite from Copland's Appalachian Spring in the original scoring for thirteen instruments. It got neat, incisive playing, and there was a soft radiance to the final pages that was genuinely moving.

A string orchestra version of Verdi's E minor Quartet received an neatly-turned performance, with some spirited, energetic playing in the scherzo, but while there was a graceful waltz-like sweep to the second movement, the quick tempo robbed it of some of its wistfulness.

There was some elegant playing in Gounod's Little Symphony for wind, though the brisk tempo for the third movement, while deftly handled by the players, tended to just skim the surface of the music. Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks Concerto got in some ways the most successful performance of the evening, crisp and dapper, with just the right sense of propulsive energy in the finale. A lively account of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony ended the evening, but, again, the swift tempo in the second movement made for a rather superficial reading.

And the visuals? Live video of the players in action was projected onto large screens, mixed with composer portraits and snippets of background information. An interesting experiment that didn't quite come off, partly because the text was too small, and the live video spent too much time replicating a general view of the platform which we could see for ourselves anyway. But it has opened up possibilities for future exploration.

Copyright © 6 November 2006 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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