Overture, Leonore No.3, Op.72b
Humoreskes for Viola and Orchestra, Op.41 [world premiere]
Symphony No.7 in E
Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola)
Reviewed by: Edward Clark
Reviewed: 2 July, 2011
Venue: St John's Church, Waterloo, London
This was the 10th-Anniversary Concert of Sinfonia Tamesa, an orchestra I enjoy listening to, mainly for the repertoire rather than its location; St John’s, Waterloo, a plain-looking post-war church, must have the worst sound shell of any church in London. It is a peculiar shape for a start; for musical performance it is too wide and too high; notes are literally lost in the mushy sound.
For its celebratory concert the orchestra invited a frequent guest conductor, Matthew Taylor, to take charge. Sarah-Jane Bradley was entrusted with the birth of Taylor’s Humoreskes and she gave every sign of being delighted with her task. According to Taylor his new work takes as one of its exemplars the Six Humoresques for Violin and Orchestra by Sibelius, gorgeous pieces. Similarly Taylor’s pieces are short, individually characterised and well contrasted. The opening piece has a haunted feel about it and is set in relief by the faster, somewhat mischievous successor that radiates a distinct Walton-like gusto. The third is deeply melodic without a true melody, the next a mixture of ruminative music for viola with occasional support from the orchestra. The finale bursts into life with high spirits ending with a coda full of competitive dash between soloist and orchestra. The overall effect is an exercise in English lyricism that is now generally recognised as a blessing rather than a curse in our national consciousness.
Before and after this fine new work the programme offered safe Teutonic fare. Beethoven’s Leonore No.3 Overture was spacious but spirited, full of revolutionary glow. After the interval came a bridge too far. Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony was simply beyond this orchestra’s expressive reach in its current youthful makeup. Taylor must have sensed this early on because the slow movement was almost exactly twice as fast as it should be. The whole work lacked the necessary spirituality. Even a rousing finale ended as a bit of a damp squib as the players finally threw in the towel.