Kensington Symphony Orchestra – Smetana, Miaskovsky & Dvořák

Má vlast – Vltava
Symphony No.21 in F sharp minor, Op.51
Symphony No.6 in D, Op.60

Kensington Symphony Orchestra
Russell Keable

Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker

Reviewed: 24 June, 2008
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London

Russell KeableThe programmes of the Kensington Symphony Orchestra during its 2007-8 Season, which ended with this concert, have been amongst the most interesting of all London orchestras. This concluding concert proved to be no exception. Planning is one thing; the resultant performances are quite another matter, and I must begin with my main criticism of the season’s concerts which took place at St John’s.

For reasons which may have more to do with the comfort of the players than anything else, a large number of the seats in front of the platform were removed, spreading the orchestra out, so to speak, down and into the auditorium, placing the strings on the same level as the audience, the normal platform used for the remaining players. From my customary seat at the back, under the organ, which offers the best sound, the balance of the orchestra seems put out by this procedure. For an earlier concert, which included Richard Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony, the very large orchestra Strauss demands certainly justified the spreading-out of the musicians, not all of whom could have been properly accommodated on the normal platform. But none of the three items in this concluding programme calls for a large orchestra, and the sound, as well as internal orchestral balance, suffered thereby.

Nikolai Yakovlevich Myaskovsky (1881-1950) This was a pity, but it was certainly not terminal, for we had splendid accounts of these very different masterpieces, a noun I do not hesitate to apply to Miaskovsky’s refined and introspective Symphony No.21, a single-movement 15-minute piece dating from 1940. This was quite superbly played and conducted (the limitations of the orchestra’s lay-out notwithstanding), the first clarinet coming across as a really fine player, with the work receiving a performance that clearly had the imprint of detailed preparation and utter commitment on the conductor’s part. This followed a delightful account of Smetana’s Vltava, most admirably projected.

Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony was outstandingly well conducted. Not for Russell Keable the annoying (and unmusical) habit of interrupting the composer’s flow at the conductor’s whim, but an uninterrupted, beautifully lyrical, outpouring of very fine music, the product of a great composer at ease with himself. The Kensington Symphony Orchestra rose well to the conductor’s admirable approach. This was a most successful conclusion to a memorable season of concerts.

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