The second concert of Marlborough College Concert Series 2023/24 was given by the excellent National Symphony Orchestra conducted by their Principal Associate Conductor, Rimma Sushanskaya. The programme was a musical salute to the Baroque Era and contained some firm favourites to the delight of a packed Memorial Hall.
Out of the six pieces presented, five were concertos in one form or another, and featured some outstanding solo performances from a variety of different soloists, all of whom performed with style and conviction.
The first of the five concertos was the demanding Brandenburg Concerto No.3. Despite the popularity of this concerto it is not to be underestimated, with a multitude of exposed and intricate passagework littering the two outer movements from start to finish. Here the NSO gave a robust and bullish performance with bags of character and spirit to match. After an elegant arrangement of Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring (Bach arr. Ormandy), Mathilde Milwidsky gave a scintillating performance of Bach’s E Major Violin Concerto which had all the required musical finesse, matched by impressive technique.
After the interval, we heard Corelli’s Concerto Grosso Op.6 No.8 – affectionately known as the ‘Christmas Concerto’ and of course used so effectively as some of the music in the film ‘Master and Commander’. This was a performance of clever pacing from conductor Sushanskaya – with the final Pastorale worthy of particular praise.
Two further concertos then finished off proceedings, firstly, Vivaldi’s Double Cello Concerto in G Minor with Justin Pearson and Pedro da Silva as the persuasive soloists (there were some excellent contrasts and musical interplay here), and finally Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe where Mathilde Milwidsky returned to be joined by the oboe soloist, Christopher Cowie. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Christopher for many years and he never disappoints: an exquisite sound, perfect control, and musical sophistication are just a few of his exceptional attributes.
Overall then, a splendid concert from a fine ensemble, and crowned by some truly marvellous solo playing.
Artistic Director, Marlborough College Concert Series and Marlborough College.