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REVIEW: Chichester Symphony Orchestra, Chichester Cathedral

 

Published on Wednesday 6 March 2013 08:34

The obvious empathy between the conductor and soloist produced a truly outstanding performance of Beethoven’s piano concerto no 4 in G.

In their Cathedral concert, the Chichester Symphony Orchestra’s distinguished accompaniment to the exceptional soloist, Yasmin Rowe ensured a memorable interpretation of this great work.

Rowe’s charm, virtuosity and poise brought an enormous freshness and power to her playing.

Breaking with tradition the soloist alone sets the scene with the unaccompanied piano opening chords. Mark Hartt-Palmer (conductor) expertly led the orchestra to develop and expand the opening theme.

Under the orchestra’s versatile conductor, Michael Walsh, the Chichester Symphony Orchestra excitingly explored the many themes and emotions of Mozart’s great symphony No 41 “Jupiter”. Their performance was inspired, beautifully capturing contrasting moods of this masterpiece.

This complex symphony depends on the virtuosity of many groups of musicians in the orchestra and Michael Walsh’s conducting expertise guaranteed the full potential of each player contributed the success performance.

Graham Hewitt


JUBILEE SPRING CONCERT - 31 MARCH 2012

St Paul's Church, Northgate, Chichester

 

CHICHESTER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

leader Anna Ruijterman

 

BUTTERWORTH    BANKS OF GREEN WILLOW

WARLOCK                CAPRIOL SUITE

DELIUS                     THE WALK TO THE PARADISE GARDEN (A VILLAGE ROMEO & JULIET)

conductor Mark Hartt-Palmer

 

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS        SYMPHONY NO. 5

conductor Michael Walsh

 

 

British music is not half as well known in the non-English speaking world as it should be.  Elgar has many admirers in France and, particularly, Germany, but there was near-disbelief when the USSR Symphony Orchestra recorded his Second Symphony. Vaughan Williams fares even worse: when Andre Previn conducted his wonderful Tallis Fantasia with the Vienna Philharmonic, deeply impressed players approached him with the question "Did Vaughan Williams write anything else?"

Perhaps English music has still not recovered from its Victorian-age reputation, when our only really good composer was comic opera writer Arthur Sullivan.

If, however, there were any citizens of our EU neighbours in Saturday's audience, they might well have decided to start exploring our twentieth century music.

The CSO chose three nicely varied miniatures with which to open the concert. Who would not warm to Butterworth's folk-inspired idyll, warmly pictorial with an ardent central passage? Good solo work from woodwinds and the orchestra's leader. Peter Warlock's bit of pastiche owes a great deal to a sixteenth century French collection (and the Pavane, for wind and percussion, sounds much like one of Dowland's works), but it is very entertaining: the Sword-Dance ends with a dissonance that suggests dodgy footwork and a need for bandaging.

There could be no greater contrast than the piece that followed. Although Delius' opera A Village Romeo and Juliet is performed only rarely, its interlude The Walk to the Paradise Garden is one of his most popular short pieces. Unusually for Delius, this miniature is as emotional as it is pastoral, and perfectly captures the feelings of teenage lovers who, against an arcadian background, have concluded a suicide pact. The orchestra soon settled into an affecting performance, and Mark Hartt-Palmer ensured that this walk was perfectly paced.

Vaughan Williams' beautiful Fifth is the most spiritual of his symphonies, filled as it is with ideas from his opera A Pilgrim's Progress, and featuring a treatment of part of Sine Nomine (For All the Saints). The opening tempo seemed slow for a moderato, but the effect was quite hypnotic and the choice was justified by the splendid impact of the central climax. The Scherzo, which surely has something to do with the devil, is certainly devilishly difficult to play, and one had to admire the orchestra's determination to do it justice. The Romanza - perhaps the composer's loveliest slow movement - was beautifully done, with excellent playing from cor anglais and flute. Conductor Michael Walsh is to be congratulated on holding the Finale together better than the conductor on my London Philharmonic CD! - and the performance of the  epilogue suggested, quite appropriately, a world beyond time.

Phil Jenkins

CHICHESTER SYMPHONY WINTER PROM

 

ST.PAUL'S CHURCH, CHICHESTER  -  10th DECEMBER 2011

CHICHESTER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

leader MARK HARTT-PALMER

conductor MICHAEL WALSH

ROSSINI        The Barber of Seville  - overture

GRAINGER   Shepherd's Hey

SIBELIUS      Finlandia

BARBER        Adagio for strings

BIZET            L'Arlesienne  -  selection

ELGAR          Chanson de Matin  &  Chanson de Nuit

                        Pomp and Circumstance March No.1

 

Every item on tonight's highly enjoyable programme is a classic of its type, and conductor Michael Walsh again showed an impressive grasp of a wide range of styles. The plan was again a good one, with the extrovert but serious Finlandia bridging the gulf between the comedy of the opening numbers and the lacrimose Adagio for Strings. A short break - and then pleasure all the way, with Bizet transporting the winter audience to the South of France (hard to believe the music accompanied a  tragedy) and Elgar returning us to Worcestershire spring sunshine with his Morning Song. It was good to hear the rarely played Chanson de Nuit before the inevitable (but no less welcome) March: this beautiful and eloquent piece might be better known if its companion were not so warm and tuneful.

 

There was delightful interplay between the sections of the orchestra as they tossed Grainger's tune between them, and the programme's variety allowed each of them  to show its worth, with impressive work from the brass in Finlandia, the Farandole, and the Elgar March; eloquent, poetic playing from the strings in both the Adagio and the Adagietto; and highly attractive contributions from the woodwind throughout the delightfully scored Bizet.

 

So, another very enjoyable concert from the Chichester Symphony Orchestra, qualified for me only by the realisation, during Land of Hope and Glory, of how much my tenor has deteriorated in recent years.

 

Phil Jenkins

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FESTIVITIES CONCERT, ST.PAUL'S CHURCH, CHICHESTER  -  9th JULY 2011

 

 

 

ARISA FUJITA, violin

HONOKA FUJITA, cello

CHICHESTER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

leader MARK HARTT-PALMER

conductor MICHAEL WALSH

BEETHOVEN           Overture: Coriolan

BRAHMS                   Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra

TCHAIKOVSKY        Symphony No 5

How fortunate we were to have London Guildhall Professor of Violin Arisa Fujita and her gifted sister Honoka perform in this year's CSO Festivities Concert. They gave a most moving performance of Brahms' wonderful double concerto and received committed support from the Chichester Symphony Orchestra. Technically first-class, the sisters got right inside the composer's emotional world and brought out all the yearning passion of the opening allegro. Arisa's sweet tone and beautiful soft playing was a notable feature of the tender andante, in which she and Honoka were clearly really listening to each other.

There was some particularly eloquent playing from the orchestra in the lyrical sections of the Coriolan overture. Conductor Michael Walsh had chosen a deliberate basic tempo, thereby bucking the trend of ever faster speeds in Beethoven's orchestral works. It worked well, helping to emphasize the gravity of the Shakespeare drama that inspired the piece, and making the coda, which represents Coriolanus' final exhaustion, more than usually effective.

Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony is a strikingly heart-on-sleeve, melodious work, and the audience was treated to a particularly grand performance of it. The highlight  was the unforgettable slow movement, with songful playing from the winds and beautiful phrasing by the strings. John Peskett deserves a special mention for his lovely playing of the famous horn solo, and  the whole brass section made a splendid job of the rousing finale.

  

Phil Jenkins

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Gala Concert 26 March 2011 



SARAH BALDOCK, organ

THE ST.RICHARD SINGERS

CHICHESTER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

leader MARK HARTT-PALMER

conductor MICHAEL WALSH 

 

HAYDN Te Deum for Empress Marie Therese

RAVEL Three Partsongs

POULENC Concerto in G minor, for organ, strings and timpani

SAINT-SAENS Symphony No 3 in C minor
(organist: Richard Barnes) 



A striking feature of this excellent concert was its remarkable variety, both between and within the individual pieces. Haydn's Te Deum, as befits a song of continuous praise to God, was given a jubilant performance - as clear as the reverberant acoustic would allow, and with the festive trumpets and drum ideally balanced against the chorus. 

What greater contrast could there be than the brittle, cynical Ravel song that followed! The St Richard Singers coped admirably with the technical and linguistic demands of both humorous items, framing a poignantly performed song of regret at the onset of war. 

The Ravel was the first of three contrasting French items. Sarah Baldock proved an expert soloist in the concerto. All concerned successfully realised the wide range of styles employed by Poulenc in the piece's six short sections, and the strings acquitted themselves very well in the lush textures of the quiet passages. 

 And so to the evening's block-buster, given a performance that could hardly have disappointed its many fans. Saint-Saens rarely wrote music in the grand style, but this piece was surely inspired by the minor key symphonies of great predecessors - notably Beethoven. His attempt to write something profound is deservedly popular, with just a few unfortunate banalities and reminders of his Carnival of the Animals. Michael Walsh always seems to grasp the idiom of a composer, and this was no exception. The choice of speeds seemed ideal, and the slow music was particularly successful: the first-movement introduction mysteriously spiritual, and the poco adagio expressive without being sugary. The orchestra rose splendidly to the challenge of the difficult scherzo, and the rousing finale was greeted enthusiastically by a near sell-out audience. 

 

Phil Jenkins