Overture ‘The Naiades’, Op.15
Konzertstück for four horns and orchestra, Op.86
Symphony No.3 in A minor, Op.56 (Scottish)
Roger Montgomery, Andrew Clark, Gavin Edwards & Martin Lawrence (horns)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 20 May, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall
Things were achieved a little too easily at this concert: a compliment of sorts. Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ Symphony lacked for atmosphere in its opening; not much suggestion of the landscape that inspired the music and rather restless in a finicky sort of way. A ‘symphony’ certainly emerged though, secure in its course if lacking variegation and dynamic contrasts (when the latter did occur the ear really noticed). Over its course, the symphony (with the repeat of the first-movement exposition rather getting in the way given it seemed slavishly observed) tended to pall, although the slow movement responded well to Robin Ticciati’s somewhat metronomic direction and he certainly found joy rather than pomposity in the ultimate coda to end the concert on a high.
This early-starting concert (to allow for the “Night Shift”) had begun with a rare outing for music by William Sterndale Bennett (1816-75), an English composer who travelled to Leipzig and was much admired by Mendelssohn and Schumann. The Naiades revealed music expertly crafted and pleasing if without true distinctiveness. In the Schumann the four horn soloists made a good fist of the challenges set for them, yet there was a lack of fantasy and poetry overall (as would then compromise the Mendelssohn) and one hopes that Ticciati (a young conductor who enjoys Sir Colin Davis’s mentoring) will become more penetrating as a musician.
Nevertheless one came away admiring the performance of the Schumann for its brazen confidence as well as appreciating the natural balances and piquant timbres created by the OAE members’ expert commitment throughout the concert.