December 8th 2019 – St Mary’s Church, Taunton 3pm

Conductor – David Hedges Soloists – Miles Quick (Organ), Caroline Best (Cello),
Sue Turner (Oboe)

Zipoli – Adagio for oboe, cello, organ and strings (soloists Caroline Best, Sue Turner & Miles Quick)
Boyce – Symphony no 1 in Bb major
Handel – Organ concerto op 4 no 5 in F major (soloist Miles Quick)
Mozart – Symphony no 39 in Eb major

In the welcoming acoustic of St Mary Magdalene Church, Somerset County Orchestra produced a lovely rich and vibrant sound, playing on top form. A concert of 18th century music gave us both familiar and less well-known repertoire and included the organ, as part of musical celebrations of recently renovated “Father Willis”.

Zipoli’s Adagio for oboe, cello, organ and strings (previously unknown to me) is a calm and stately piece. A smooth and sustained string texture, played with beautiful sensitivity, acts as a foil for the solo instruments, which rise into focus with serene melodies and dramatic touches. Sue Turner on oboe and Caroline Best on cello (both are regular and long-standing members of the Orchestra) gave exactly the right contrast, while never losing touch with the overall musical soundscape.

Boyce’s Symphony no. 1 in B flat major came next. Brisk and robust playing, ably managed by conductor David Hedges, demonstrated the players’ familiarity with 18th century style. Again, the ensemble playing was excellent, with expressive tempi and dynamics and a strong sense of the overall structure of the piece. A flute solo in the second movement was brilliantly played by Sally Hedges.

Although the restored Willis organ is now back to its original grandeur, Handel’s Organ concerto op.4 no.5 in F major calls for only a chamber organ. However, small is beautiful and Miles Quick as organ soloist brought out all the detail and charm of the music. The four movements called for a wide range of colours and textures, from the gentle opening to the exuberant finale. Organ and orchestra complemented each other perfectly, with a good balance between the players and intelligently planned interplay between soloist and orchestra.

Finally, Mozart’s Symphony no 39 in E flat (K543) completed the programme. Now bolstered by brass, the orchestra gave a competent and disciplined performance. The sense of cohesion among the players was evident from the well-judged opening chords (reminiscent of the start of the overture to the The Magic Flute) and continuing with the beautiful gliding allegro. The first signs of a lack of togetherness came in the second movement. (The programme mentioned ‘meandering through melodies’ and is has to be said there was a certain amount of meandering through tonalities also – possibly under-rehearsed?) However, with the delightful minuet in the third movement, elegantly played, the players were back on track and playing as one. The exuberant finale was a joy, with exciting tutti passages, charming woodwind touches, and expert handling of the unexpected pauses and key changes. Finishing abruptly in a shower of sparks, this was a performance to relish.

Sue Goodman December 2019

October 19th 2019 – St James Church, Taunton 2.30pm

Conductor – David Hedges Soloist – Rustom Pomeroy

Brahms – Academic Overture
Elgar – Violin Concerto (soloist Rustom Pomeroy)
Schumann – Symphony no 1