Symphony No.1 in D, Op.25 (Classical)
Cello Concerto in E minor, Op.85
Symphony No.3 in A minor, Op.56 (Scottish)
Gemma Rosefield (cello)
The New Professionals
Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter
Reviewed: 28 September, 2007
Venue: St John-at-Hampstead, Church Row, London NW3
Rebecca Miller divides her working life between Britain and the United States, where she was born. She founded The New Professionals in 1999. It currently comprises 33 distinguished young musicians at the start of their careers. In this Hampstead Parish Church concert, the Orchestra’s Patron, Richard Baker, introduced the concert.
Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony was a delight. The performance was exemplary – highly intelligent and stylistically acute. Phrase after phrase was clearly thought out. We heard acknowledgement of Haydn – his energy, his poise and also his sturdy peasant-like tuttis. We could delight in the continual and nicely-perceived shifts from the very refined through to the brusque. The 20th-century composer was present too – not as abrasively as Stravinsky when in classical mode – presenting music in the style of the past with his tongue tucked affectionately in his cheek. We heard, too, the Russian composer, presenting Haydn from the basis of a different tradition from that of Western Europe.
Elgar’s Cello Concerto was fresh and honest. This was a youthful take on the work, delineating its various aspects with ringing clarity. The mood was ruminant, with no striving to carry a burden of heavy sorrowfulness. The striking and simple double-stopping with which the soloist opens the concerto (and its re-appearance in the last movement), the livelier second subject and the lament in the brief but effective Adagio all made their mark. Brief, triumphal interventions were brazen and challenging, with very effective, mellow playing from the brass. The second and fourth movements had strength and vigour – and, in the last, a captivating lightness of touch. I particularly appreciated the extended transition passages. That said, however, the two longer movements do contain padding: the work is uneven. The honesty of the performance made this apparent. Gemma Rosefield’s performance was sensitive and restrained, technically most accomplished and effective. I shall remember her cool, yet impassioned phrasing, gratefully.
The ‘Scottish’ Symphony made a most satisfying conclusion. It is engaging and accomplished. Giving it as much weight and gravity as it could take, Rebecca Miller made the opening seem isolated and monumental. For the rest, the playing of The New Professionals was deft, lively and delightfully fresh. As a whole, the programme was fascinating and judicious. Indirectly, the elegance and classical poise of the ‘Classical’ and ‘Scottish’ symphonies highlighted Elgar’s remarkable yet rather ungainly individuality as he lurched not always easily from revealing various sides of his personality.