Review: Orchestral and Ensembles Concert

Review: Ensembles Concert

Tuesday 7th December 2021

Sunday 5th December 2021, The Memorial Hall

In the words of the Artistic Director, when programming this concert, Philip Dukes wanted everyone to be able to enjoy a ‘good tune’, and with no hint of disappointment, this concert featured tunes aplenty.

Opening the concert was a strident and spritely performance of the first movement of CPE Bach’s Symphony in G major, Wq 182. This well-articulated performance demonstrated a wonderful early representation of Sturm und Drang, with well-echoed phrases, and a full-bodied and rounded sound. To contrast this, the next piece by Elgar allowed for the String Chamber Orchestra to demonstrate their more rich and tender side of playing; with a shift in colour and texture, Sospiri sighed with the weight of intimacy. Reverberant and heavy pizzicato string writing in the celli and double bass delicately held ‘sul G’ melodies with elegance, poised to perfection with the pulsating harp and piano harmonic gesture. To conclude, in a very intimate setting with only six performers on stage, the first movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto for 3 Violins in F major, RV 551 heralded the Italianate style of virtuosity in a dramatic and technical way. Poppy (L6), Allegra (L6) and Jenny (U6) demonstrated some dramatic interplay between all three solo parts, with an extraordinary sense of relationship and gesture between parts, with sublime intonation. An incredibly florid and equally virtuosic basso continuo line as played by Emily (U6) and Bella (L6) gave the perfect combination of drive and sensitivity with Mr Butterfield at the helm of the harpsichord.

As the stage was reset in preparation for the full Symphony Orchestra, the audience paused with bated breath for the promise of ‘tunes’ to come. And so, they were not disappointed! Opening the second half was a march from the London Suite, Covent Garden, by Eric Coates. With its plucky brass interjections and lyrical horn and wind melodic lines, this fiery and triumphant opening established a successful precedence in the return of orchestral music at Marlborough. Famed as the theme tune to BBC Radio 4s ‘Desert Island Discs’, Sleepy Lagoon (again by Coates) followed as the strings shimmered with tasteful vibrato, colouring some sumptuous extended and jazzy chords, alongside such luxuriously warm and rich brass playing. In a complete contrast, Arthur Benjamin’s Rumba provided the perfect palate cleanser, a blithe Latin American dance that was delicately played. Danceable rhythms were plentiful in this short and sweet number, with such abundant and evident fun had by the percussion section! In yet another contrast, Ronald Binge’s Sailing By was a wonderful example of programmatic music; florid and water-like woodwind interjections foreshadowed the perfect accompaniment for a string melody that floated by with such depth and resonance, atop the harmonic changes in the brass played with warmth and lyrical legato gesture. Concluding this evening’s concert, we revisit the London Suite by Coates in the form of the Knightsbridge March. Such a joyous and uplifting conclusion, carrying forth one final excellent ‘tune’, under which an exciting and humorous harmonic progression trundled along – it was clear that absolutely everyone on stage delighted in playing such a glorious light-hearted programme this evening. It was certainly a toe-tapping oom-pa-pa to send us merrily on our way home, happily whistling at least one ‘tune’…!

What a treat it was to return to the Memorial Hall, and sincere congratulations to all the performers, especially considering these ensembles were almost formed from scratch at the start of this term… Bravo, one and all!

Adam Meehan-Staines

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