A Protean Master
Julian Jacobson in the first
of his orchestral Valentine Extravaganzas,
enjoyed by MALCOLM TROUP
If Lorenzo the Magnificent ever thought seriously of celebrating St Valentine's Day in rinascimento Florence, he would surely have come up with an intermedio no more princely than the Syred Sinfonia's début concert last Wednesday 14 February 2007 at St James' Church Piccadilly, London UK. It had something of the 'stuff of dreams' about it -- even the Syred Orchestra (named for its sponsor Richard Syred) had been conjured into existence out of nothing by a somewhat more substantial Ariel in the person of fixer-extraordinaire Toni Del Mar; as had also the de luxe programmes in the shape of outsize Valentine Cards containing Anthony Burton's pithy programme-notes; the capacity audience (for which the one usher on duty was totally unprepared); even the bubbly libations going on in the crypt beforehand to ensure the right auguries for the occasion (to which your reviewer was not invited, lest readers might suspect his impartiality).
Yes, the Goddess of Plenty (also known as Toni) had contrived conductors, soloists, instrumentalists, sponsors beyond count. Even the raison d'être for tonight's revels had been her idea: the late music-loving Old Bailey Judge Stokes whose Memorial Bursary Awards at Churchill College Cambridge would be receiving the proceeds and whose spirit presided over what doubled at the same time as his Memorial Concert -- some who had quaffed too liberally half-imagined to espy him swinging above our heads from a Baroque trick-wire. Presided would be too killjoy a word for such a liberated spirit -- 'led the revels' would be more apt. Because there was an undeniable corybantic element at large which took hold of us from the moment that Guy Woolfenden CBE -- all in black like some Spanish grandee -- struck up the first delicious strains of the Stravinsky Pulcinella Suite. Out tumbled Sicilianos, Gavottes (in which the winds shone bright), even a Tarantella to make our toes as well as our ears curl and tingle. So what if the strings, with such stars as George Mattar, Chihiro Ono, Rosenna East and Yuko Inoue, seemed a little limp and lacklustre at the outset? The acoustics of St James have been known before now to play such tricks. However, the trombone of Thorn Woolley and double-bass of Paul Moore fully made up for any such initial holding-back in their Rabelaisian duet recalling Stravinsky's own early fascination with farting (see his Chronicle de ma Vie) and musical coprophagy.
Copyright © 21 February 2007
Malcolm Troup, London UK