This concert marked the second and final appearance of the Orchestra’s guest conductor Señor Josep Gil. Josep’s style of conducting made a great impression at the orchestra’s previous concert in the Cathedral, and many gathering tonight were keen to witness again how the players would respond. We were not to be disappointed. Players and conductor were on great form.
Mozart’s “Magic Flute Overture” was a wonderful choice to open the programme, with its slow, dignified start, followed by the main theme introduced by the strings. Here, as throughout the programme, the strings played with a richness of tone which would be the envy of many amateur ensembles. Mozart’s merry theme bounced around between the sections from the perky woodwind to lively strings with the timpani clearly enjoying themselves. The rich tutti brought the overture to a thrilling climax.
By contrast, Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” shines a spotlight on many sections of the orchestra and indeed, many soloists. CSO pulled off an amazing performance with drive and sensitivity exactly as required. Superb phrasing and dynamic control from the strings defined the “Overture”. As the “Suite” progressed, many skilful performances must be mentioned: bass strings’ accurate and expressive pizzicatos in the first “Dance”; the celesta solos, expertly handled; the fabulous “fff” climax of the “Russian Dance”; dreamy eastern oboe playing from Arabia; flutes and clarinets in cheeky dialogues and finally wonderful string playing in the “Waltz of the Flowers”, rich in tone and filled with expression. The performance of this whole “Suite” brought sunshine and smiles to all of us in the audience.
Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” again demonstrated the players’ control of sustained notes and dynamic phrasing. Beautifully paced at a gentle tempo, the tone’s richness took us romantically through this well-loved classic.
And finally (as they used to say), we enjoyed Mendelssohn’s “Italian Symphony”. From the first bars, the influence and grandeur of Italian architecture and life shone through. The opening Allegro Vivace
was energetic, often dramatic, contrasted by smooth, pastoral moments from flutes and ‘cellos. The strings gently accompanied the woodwind in the second movement which paved the way for the Presto
which was played with energetic passion, interspersed with the most musical shading and carefully controlled dynamics I have ever heard from this orchestra.
The Chichester Symphony Orchestra and Josep must be congratulated on this most adventurous programme. It was a joy to hear from start to finish. Bravo!