City of London Sinfonia/Matthew Taylor – Nielsen Premiere

Sibelius
Romance in C
Nielsen, arr. Taylor
Canto Serioso for horn and chamber orchestra [World premiere]
Nielsen
Little Suite, Op.1
At the Bier of a Young Artist
Mozart
Horn Concerto No.4 in E flat, K495

Stephen Stirling (horn)

City of London Sinfonia
Matthew Taylor


Reviewed by: Patrick Kelly

Reviewed: 27 February, 2008
Venue: St Andrew’s, Holborn, London

Stephen StirlingFresh from his successful participation in the St Petersburg British Music Festival late last year, Matthew Taylor conducted the City of London Sinfonia in more of his musical enthusiasms. In Russia he guided an excellent St Petersburg orchestra through (for the local musicians) the mysteries of his own Third Symphony and numerous other British pieces.

Taylor is not only a very fine composer, who believes in the past as well as the future, but also a conductor of real stature. This lunchtime concert was filled with bon mots, small chips from the blocks of giants. But the dedication he afforded to these trifles was truly absorbing.

Anyway, a world premiere is hardly trifle. This was Taylor’s own arrangement of Nielsen’s Canto Serioso, originally for horn and piano. Alas never to see the light of day, a horn concerto by Nielsen was planned but never fulfilled. So here was a morsel, an example of ‘late’ Nielsen writing for the horn. Taylor’s application of light orchestral colours suited the mellifluous sound heard from the soloist. This is a short atmospheric work pointing to the future.

Also heard by the Danish master was Little Suite, in which everything was alive and vibrant. At the Bier of a Young Artist, a later work, was deeply felt on this occasion.

At the opening, another composer for the symphonist in Taylor to admire, none other than Sibelius, ithe Romance ; a misnomer if ever there was one. What begins like a Nordic preamble ends in a mixture of melancholy and menace so typical of the mature Sibelius.

Finally we heard a beautiful performance of Mozart’s Fourth Horn Concerto with Stirling as resplendent soloist, his tone was amplified by the church acoustics to wonderful effect. On the other hand these same acoustics obscured a lot of the strings’ details, which was a shame as the orchestra offered fine support, particularly in the effervescent finale.

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