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Propulsive Energy

Sinfonia Viva at the Buxton Festival,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Sinfonia Viva's appearances with mezzo Ann Murray have become something of a Buxton Festival institution, and there was a near-capacity audience for this concert (Buxton Festival, Buxton, UK, 11 July 2008), with its all-Wagner first half.

The opening performance of Siegfried Idyll moved easily between the intimacy of real chamber music and opening out effectively for the more orchestrally sonorous passages. There was warmth, but also a vigour that kept undue sentimentality at bay.

The Wesendonck Lieder, in German composer Andreas Tarkmann's reduced scoring, impressed particularly in the quiet, intimate moments. Ann Murray produced some subtle changes of tone in the first song, and sang the third and last songs -- with their pre-echoes of Tristan and Isolde -- with splendidly long-breathed phrasing.

After the interval came the octet A Huit by Jean Françaix, scored for the same ensemble as Schubert's Octet. Viva's crisp, alert playing kept the second movement chattering and burbling along in its amiably inconsequential way. The players enjoyed themselves with the waltz-rondo finale, handling some tricky writing with aplomb. Françaix could turn out this sort of thing by the yard, and frequently did, but it's good fun while it lasts.

For a more substantial finale, Viva turned to Britten's Sinfonietta, projecting the composer's youthful exuberance with propulsive energy. The performance was clean and incisive in the outer movements, maintaining an underlying sense of tautness in the more ruminative middle one.

Copyright © 17 July 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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