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Spring Serenade - May 2016

Prokofiev's Classical symphony is probably not an obvious choice to open a concert with its twin hazards of popular familiarity and fearsome technical demands for all departments. The SSO on Sunday lacked nothing in the way they attacked this score, it was a joy to hear in the clear, clean acoustic of the Pamoja Hall. It is essentially a piece of light music and in taking this angle Darrell Davison prevented the tough corners becoming stumbling blocks, the choice of tempi was exemplary for this piece, in this acoustic, with this orchestra. My feeling is they deserved warmer and more prolonged applause, but that is a hazard of being the first item on the programme.

Viewed from some angles Beethoven's Triple Concerto is a leviathan, but also the most delicate of chamber music, having at its core a piano trio. So a huge range of textures and nuances to explore as well as rather a lot of notes. I can't recall going to a live performance of this before and that was the case for many in the audience. The soloists Nazrin Rashidova [violin] Liubov Ulybysheva [cello] and John Paul Ekins [piano] gave us an insight into Beethoven's revisiting of the trio combination, it would be good to know if they play the early Beethoven trios together in a chamber setting. There was no doubting their virtuosity and I particularly enjoyed the crystal clarity of articulation from all three. It's very difficult sorting out positioning for this sort of concertante work without taking the lid off the piano - I just wondered if some more eye contact between piano and string soloists would have helped the trio ensemble gel a little more naturally. The slow movement's atmosphere was well caught with lovely lyrical playing from all involved, orchestra and soloists. Often an exciting thing about young soloists is the fresh approach to interpretation - particularly tempi, and we had plenty to excite us on Sunday.

Mozart's Don Giovanni overture was a good refresher after the interval - a nicely sinister opening and then plenty of wit and sparkle. They've played more Mozart recently and it's being put across with much greater lightness of touch and careful listening for interplay within and between the orchestral families; communicating, engaging and entertaining.

The first serenade by Brahms is part try-out symphony and part dance suite, written by a twenty-seven year old, and there are in it so many passages prophetic of the symphonies to come. The SSO performance seemed to bring these out in an entirely unforced way, whether a rehearsed interpretation or natural evolution we shall never know. Woodwind lyricism beautifully enunciated in the slow movement springs to mind as did the luscious rich string textures which worked so well despite a relatively small cello section. This was very enjoyable intelligent music making. The players and the conductor of the SSO have such a wealth of experience together that the odd disagreement about a repeat scarcely ruffled a feather - that's what real music making is all about. Again a relatively less well known piece of the 'standard' repertoire which those around me in the hall will be revisiting.

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