Anyone hearing Grieg’s Holberg Suite on Sunday 3rd December for the first or one hundredth time would recognise that this is one of the great works of string orchestra repertoire. Great and tricky in equal measure but in the energetic and consummate hands of Sara Stagg and the College’s Chamber Orchestra, the music shone through. Led superbly by Dmitri M we were taken on a magical ride of colour, energy and a sense of commitment which was very moving. Make no mistake: this is not the kind of music performed in schools very often, if at all, and clearly the players recognised what a privilege it was to engage with the work from the inside out, selling it to us with ease. One player was heard to say afterwards that it was the musical highlight of her time at the College – high praise indeed, justifying, as if needed, the choice of such adventurous material.
A symphony orchestra is an incredibly flexible, nimble and vibrant type of ensemble, its range and colour is unequalled as a form of music making and so it was this evening. Philip Dukes steered the College’s Symphony Orchestra through the Montagues and Capulets from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet with precision and authority. The variety of moods explored in this very famous work were deftly navigated by the players and we were all transported to the tragedy which fictitiously played out in Verona. The international narrative continued as we journeyed north to Finland and Sibelius’ subtle protest work against foreign interference in matters Finnish: Finlandia. This work to the Finns is the equivalent of Jerusalem to the British and this evening’s version was so committed that the orchestra could have been from that loveliest of European states. All sections of the orchestra rose to the occasion mixing drama with majesty and beauty. The icy picture continued with a rendition of Pop Looks Bach by Sam Fonteyn complete with an encore encompassing some very advance skiing techniques from the audience – all good fun and a wonderful evening.
Head of Wind & Instrumental Studies