Sinfonia Viva at the Buxton Festival,
heard by MIKE WHEELER
For their annual Buxton Festival concert, Sinfonia Viva decamped from the Palace Hotel, their venue of previous years, to the more generous acoustic of St John's Church (Buxton, UK, 12 July 2009). The extra degree of warmth served the programme well, while still allowing the chamber-scale instrumentation of the three works the required incisiveness and clarity.
The suite from Stravinsky's The soldier's tale was played with tautness and bite, with a strain of haunting lyricism emerging in numbers like the 'Pastorale'. Leader Benedict Holland supplied a brief linking narration.
Ann Murray joined the players for another of those reduced-scoring song cycles that have become a Murray/Viva speciality over the last few years. This time it was Mahler's Kindertotenlieder, in a version by Andreas Tarkmann. Tarkmann's version is so skilfully done (and Mahler's original is so sparely orchestrated anyway) that there was no sense of a missing dimension.
These songs may be laments on the death of children but there is a wide emotional range to explore. The inwardness and concentration Ann Murray and Viva brought to the second song was almost tangible, while the change of tone to one of calm after the storm that takes up most of the last song was skilfully and movingly negotiated.
Brahms' Serenade No 1 began life as a nonet, which he destroyed after re-scoring it for orchestra. Alan Boustead's reconstruction of the original formed the second half of the programme. Viva's performance found room for both the sturdy and the sensitive streaks in the music's make-up. The players dug into the rustic, outdoor quality of the opening movement, while finding a shadowy, mysterious quality in the first scherzo. The presence of Schubert's Octet in the work's ancestry emerged in the second scherzo, particularly, and the finale's abundant good humour was given full rein.
Copyright © 16 July 2009
ST JOHN'S CHURCH