In the South (Alassio) – Concert Overture, Op.50
Cello Concerto in E minor, Op.85
Symphony No.10 in E minor, Op.93
Bartholomew LaFollette (cello)
Guildhall Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker
Reviewed: 27 November, 2007
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
This programme by the advanced students of the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra proved to be a notably impressive occasion. The first half was devoted to Elgar, containing two masterpieces from different periods in his career – the Concert Overture (actually, more a symphonic poem) from 1904 and the autumnal Cello Concerto of fifteen years later.
The differences in realising these works posed by such juxtaposition would have fully taxed a professional band, but the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra rose superbly to the manifold challenges of each. In the South received a very fine, indeed brilliant, performance, with a suitably large orchestral strength founded upon ten double basses and twelve cellos. The solo playing of the principal viola was exemplary – certainly deserving of a personal round of applause from the reasonably large audience, which unfortunately the conductor forbade to offer him.
The young American cellist Bartholomew LaFollette was the soloist. His technique and grasp Elgar’s work made a deep impression – so much so, in fact, that one hopes that a musically philanthropic donor will enable him to play upon an instrument more suited to his notable gifts. Many young cellists now tackle this work but few seem able to reach the authority and wonderful sense of repose that this player brought to the latter part of the score.
Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony saw the double basses – reduced to eight for the concerto, increased to eleven for this shattering masterpiece. Whilst in the nature of things Christopher Seaman’s tempo for the scherzo was a little understated, as was the final ramming home of the D-S-C-H motif on the timpani, this was a performance of total conviction and depth of perception by a first-class orchestra, the individual members demonstrating beyond question the quality of the Guildhall School’s instruction and training.
This concert was a considerable achievement for all concerned.