Academic Festival Overture, Op.80
Concerto in A minor for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, Op.102
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.68
Tamsin Waley-Cohen (violin) & Gemma Rosefield (cello)
Reviewed by: Andrew Morris
Reviewed: 31 March, 2011
Venue: St Paul’s, Covent Garden, London
Away from its regular home at St George’s, Hanover Square, Orpheus Sinfonia presented a lengthy programme of Brahms in the large church of St Paul’s in Covent Garden. The venue was a mixed blessing. Although fronted by pleasant gardens and generally warm and rounded as an acoustic, the space constrained the orchestra at its greatest volume and the proximity of the Covent Garden piazza brought an intrusive soundtrack.
Orpheus Sinfonia is formed primarily of conservatoire graduates, who play with the non-jaded energy that characterises so many youth and student ensembles. Certainly, this was the greatest asset in performance of Academic Festival Overture. Thomas Carroll, more familiar as a cellist, kept tempos steady and it was a testament to the virtues of the performance that its drama outweighed occasional concerns about ensemble, the music revealing great depth of tone, particularly in the strings, though also a hesitancy that continued to be felt throughout the concert.
Two young and hugely accomplished string-players performed the feisty Double Concerto. Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Gemma Rosefield were well-matched in the solo parts, sharing a sometimes searing precision of intonation. Rosefield was perhaps the more powerful personality, but neither dominated in a work with an inherent element of competition. Carroll’s tempo verged on the stately in the first movement, but orchestra and soloists were particularly attuned in the second, which swayed and smiled wonderfully. The soloists returned after the interval for an extended encore in the form of Johan Halvorsen’s arrangement of a Passacaglia by Handel.
Brahms’s First Symphony was marked by some fine solo contributions, particularly from clarinettist James Meldrum and oboist Emily Cockbill. Cockbill’s creamy tone projected clearly above the orchestra in the second movement, though Leader Sidonie Bougamont had to push hard to be heard in its conclusion. Carroll’s direction made for a solid account of the symphony. The smooth sheen of the work’s pounding introduction became a steady but pressing Allegro, though it seemed at times that his efforts to shape the music went unheeded and some of Brahms’s tricky cross-rhythms escaped the players. Orpheus Sinfonia greeted an enthusiastic response with more Brahms, the Fifth Hungarian Dances orchestrated by Albert Parlow.