Music for the Royal Fireworks Brown
Sinfonietta [World premiere] Britten
Prelude and Fugue, Op.29 Mendelssohn
Symphony No.4 in A, Op.90 (Italian)
London Chamber Orchestra conducted by Christopher Warren-Green
London Chamber Orchestra Concert - 19th February
Tuesday, February 19, 2002 Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse
The days of lights and speakers now seem thankfully past for the London Chamber Orchestra, enabling the audience to focus on a concert of repertoire items and a new commission from James Francis Brown.
Now 32, Brown has a number of major chamber works including a Viola Sonata and String Trio to his credit, while the Barbican premiere last year of his Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra confirmed a thoughtful musical persona less concerned with questions of zeitgeist than with communicating ideas of substance.
So it is with the Sinfonietta, commissioned through Fabers Millennium Series at the suggestion of David Matthews. Brown has been careful to assemble the basic symphonic constituents with a view to their intimating but not confirming the classical format. The result is a 21-minute piece of subtle and affecting contrasts, evoking composers as diverse as Stravinsky, Nielsen and Lennox Berkeley, but with a formal ingenuity and thematic profile that are already personal.
The performance coming after an account of the Royal Fireworks Music that contrived to be both brazen and lacklustre was attentive and committed. The woodwind did justice to Browns limpid and characterful writing in the slow third section, and while a few more desks to each string section would have filled out the texture appropriately, the sensitivity with which Brown handles his forces was rarely in doubt.
After the interval, an intense if rather scrappy rendition of Brittens virtuoso Prelude and Fugue, and an enjoyable Italian Symphony at its best in the inner movements, notably an account of the Con moto moderato which mingled charm and fantasy to engaging effect.