Froissart – Concert Overture, Op.19
Horn Concerto No.2 in E flat
Symphony No.3 in F, Op.90
Richard Watkins (horn)
Kensington Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 23 June, 2009
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London
The Kensington Symphony Orchestra closed it fifty-third season with a glorious beginning and a peaceful ending.
Under Russell Keable, Elgar’s early overture was confident and incident packed, the players also alive to the music’s wistful qualities and responding warmly to Keable’s affectionate and long-drawn conducting that explored the poetic recesses of the music as well as presenting this swashbuckling score with romantic ardour (and revealing not several pointers to the First Symphony that was still a few years away).
Richard Watkins, a former principal of the Philharmonia Orchestra and a current member of The Nash Ensemble, was in wonderful form for Richard Strauss’s Second Horn Concerto, as ‘late’ for Strauss as Froissart was ‘early’ for Elgar. Not without its own surge, Strauss’s concerto is essentially graceful and nostalgic, serene in the slow movement. The finale entertains wit, exuberance even, and Watkins was as nimble, generous and golden-toned as the work requires, the members of the Kensington Symphony contributing much to this close-knit piece and tracing with assurance the Haydnesque twists and turns of the finale.
Keable’s approach to Brahms’s Third Symphony was a flexible one, if not quite adding up, the first movement given with plenty of spirit, consolation and impetus, the second too consciously moulded if deeply felt, the third a little harried (there was a mellifluous horn solo from Jon Boswell) and the finale (less than mysterious in its opening bars) was a bit of a scramble until settling into reconciliation for the ending. Yet, over the whole, Keable found more of this symphony’s facets than is often the case, and there was no doubting the emotion and vividness of the performance.