Ruslan and Ludmila – Overture
Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30
Symphony No.2 in C minor, Op.17 (Little Russian)
Benjamin Andrew (piano)
The Cornerstone Chamber Orchestra
Reviewed by: Chris Caspell
Reviewed: 20 September, 2008
Venue: Church of Christ the Cornerstone, Milton Keynes
Sixteen years ago Adrian Boynton formed The Cornerstone Chamber Orchestra to support the newly created Cornerstone Chamber Choir. Although it has continued in that role (in performances of Bach’s “St Matthew Passion” and Tippett’s “A Child of Our Time” for example) this concert was one of its ‘solo’ engagements.
The reverberant acoustic of the Church of Christ the Cornerstone helped the small forces employed in the string section to produce a full and rounded sound. Significantly absent were the awkward moments that often occur in amateur-orchestra concerts where there has not been quite enough practice in the exposed areas: this is a group that had been well rehearsed and was largely on top of every note.
Glinka’s second opera is rarely heard today, but its overture (written at the last minute) has become a regular in the concert hall. This was a pedestrian if accurate performance, lacking colour and dynamic variety. A slightly faster tempo would have livened things up.
Benjamin Andrew had lessons with tonight’s conductor before studying at Trinity College of Music and then the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. He has won a number of prizes at local music festivals as well as the Trinity College of Music Trust silver medal for outstanding performance and contribution to the Keyboard Faculty.
Clearly he is a team player who worked well with the conductor and orchestra to produce a performance that was engaging and thoughtful. Sadly, wind intonation and problems with balance prevented this from being the excellent performance that it could easily have been. The resonant acoustic that helped the strings made the first movement cadenza sound jumbled; this, however, was alleviated by the four-horn entry immediately after which was nicely done. The second and third movements were dogged with intonation problems; it would have helped had the orchestra taken an A at the end of the first movement.
After the interval the orchestra returned with an excellent account of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.2. The perilous horn and bassoon opening to the symphony was made light work of in a well-crafted and musical rendition. Tempos were generally on the slow side, but the piece did not suffer for this as the conductor perhaps chose accuracy over speed. Had the orchestra re-tuned mid-work (professional orchestras do it all the time) then the opening chords of the final movement would have been heard to better advantage. Nonetheless, this was a fine performance and one that the musicians can be proud of.