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25th May, 2022

Full range of orchestral possibilities explored by Sinfonia of Birmingham

Although dealing principally in the world chamber music and recitals, the festival does like to have a decent blow-out with full orchestra and this excellent English programme from the Sinfonia of Birmingham certainly delivered.

Vaughan Williams – the focus of the weekend’s programming – dominated the menu here but it was in Parry’s delightful English Suite that matters really began to take off.

In a series of very sharply-drawn musical sketches the full range of orchestral possibilities is explored; the sprightly and quirky stands shoulder to shoulder with some truly beautiful pastoral melodies, all perfectly formed and, under the baton of Michael Seal, somehow never straying far from being recognisably English.

Vaughan Williams’ A Minor Oboe Concerto was a fabulous tour-de-force for soloist Nicholas Daniel exuding the spectacular from the totally involved expressions right down to the black sequinned trainers which drew an audible gasp from the front few rows.

The concerto makes much of versatility of the instrument and calls on bewildering levels of dexterity and breath control, but it also has its moments of comparative repose and this performance covered all bases.

The Fifth Symphony was a joy from start to finish with the Sinfonia acting principally as a string orchestra so far, now fully-staffed and displaying an attention to detail that makes each entry, each phrase stand out without distracting from the balance of the whole.

All Saints is always a pleasure when it comes to orchestral music. Clarity which can easily become lost in the reverb when in the hands of small groups becomes a booming, supportive depth particularly for cellos, basses and the excellent brass giving the richest sound you could wish for.

The better-known third movement was a predictable, but nonetheless deserved, highlight. English composers seem to have grasped the emotional power of sweeping strings and a stately tempo and this was simply majestic and beautifully handled. Add in the brittle delicacy of the symphony’s gentle ending and many will have left All Saints disappointed to find the usual traffic and take-aways outside rather than a sunlit, panoramic view of English rural beauty.

Full details of forthcoming concerts and events can be found at leamingtonmusic.org

 

Matthew Salisbury

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