Eaton Square Concerts – RAM String Orchestra

Divertimento in D, K136
Concertino for Bassoon and Strings
Sinfonietta, Op.52
Adagio for Strings
Suite for Strings

Lorna Tyack (bassoon)

Royal Academy of Music String Orchestra
David Strange

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 15 November, 2007
Venue: St Peter's Church, Eaton Square, London SW1

The RAM String Orchestra draws on first-year students and comprises some 33 players. David Strange is its genial and avuncular director. First violins were massed to his left and towards the centre, cellos and basses to his right, violas sat in a straight line facing him. The second violins sat in a single row behind, on a raised platform.

The Mozart had a young-person’s exuberance. The violins had the lion’s share of the notes, responding energetically and industriously. They made approaches towards the precision and taut elegance necessary for the finest Mozart playing. At climaxes, the massed violins usually sounded full and exuberant, but at times were rather shrill. Cellos and basses, and violas, gave solid support.

Elizabeth Maconchy’s Concertino was a pleasure to listen to. Writing for the bassoon had stimulated her into a delightful, lighter vein. Too often, she overlooked the option of beguiling her listeners, perhaps over-determined to present ‘modernist’ credentials appropriate to a woman composer who merited being taken seriously. Here, Lorna Tyack gave a lively performance, enjoying the spring-like mood and melodiousness of the outer movements and relishing the gravity of the central Lento espressivo. There was spring to her playing and she rode over the occasional difficulties with panache. The short cadenza was particularly enjoyable. The orchestra responded in kind, enjoying both the sprightliness and the lean sonority in the writing.

The Roussel gave the strings further opportunities for testing their mettle. The first movement is an exercise in dark, massed vigour, demanding as much from the cellos and basses as from the violins and violas. The resulting sound was quite savage. The other two movements require more light and shade – which they were given. A French piquancy appeared, with some lightness of touch.

The Adagio for Strings began a little thinly. Barber’s rich and designedly static sonority was not achieved – partly because, somehow, the violas did not come through. Later, the players captured the build-up to a truly impressive climax with sustained intensity.

Janáček’s Suite for Strings is a student work with few obvious indications of his later style. Even so, he gave the students plenty to display, with a spotlight for the violas and a movement that opens with cellos and basses on their own. Changes of mood and tone were achieved smoothly and seamlessly. The Suite ended vigorously with a grandly rough and vital climax.

I take it that all these First Year students began in September 2007. If my surmise is correct, then they have accomplished much in the something like two months they have been playing together.

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