June 15th 2019 – Queen’s College, Taunton 7.30pm

Conductor – David Hedges

Dvorak – Golden Spinning Wheel
Strauss – Serenade for Wind Ensemble
Rimsky-Korsakov –Scheherazade

Review

SCO’s summer concert last Saturday featured the late-Romantic repertoire, with one popular favourite and two lesser-known pieces.

The young Richard Strauss wrote his Serenade in Eb for Wind Ensemble at the age of just 17.  It shows the promise of the mature Strauss, and, with four French horns out of 13 players, has a characteristic Straussian sound.  It was a nicely balanced performance, with gentle interplay between the instruments.  Precision playing was almost too precise, once could say tending towards jerkiness. Certainly a little more blending would have improved the sound for me.

Next came another rarity (by which I mean, new to me) in the form of Dvorak’s symphonic poem The Golden Spinning Wheel.  The Orchestra was much enlarged, with numerous strings, added woodwind, extra percussion and a harp.  Nevertheless, the overall ensemble did not suffer, all players committed to producing a magnificent sound.  The work is based on a gruesome folk tale, dramatically voiced by narrator Steve Evans (standing in at short notice).  The orchestra’s storytelling was also first rate, there was emotional engagement with the story throughout, the melodic ideas passed seamlessly from section to section.  Vivid musical scenes encompassed pastoral calm, romantic love, betrayal, menace, magic, tragedy and ultimate reconciliation.  The players worked hard to maintain our interest at points where, to be frank, the scoring became repetitive or pedestrian.

After the interval we heard the hit of the show, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.  There was a time, several years ago, when this lovely work was considered very “infra dig”.  Those who knew about classical music dismissed it as a childish piece – you weren’t supposed to admit to liking it.  Luckily, we are much more inclusive these days, and celebrate good music with superb performances such as this one.  The large orchestra again rose to the challenge of this extended symphonic suite, playing with verve and panache throughout.  As a series of dramatic scenes, with Russian and oriental influences, there was scope for both lush ensemble playing and several telling solo lines from woodwinds and first violin.  The overall impression was of players fully engaged with the music, energetic, and playing with confidence and purpose.  Much credit must go to David Hedges for conducting in his usual clear and calm manner, while knowing exactly what is required, and to Alex Ennis for the gorgeous violin solos representing the heroine herself.

Sue Goodman, June 2019

Saturday 16th March 2019 – Queen’s College, Taunton 7.30pm

Conductor – David Hedges    Soloist – Elizabeth Hayley

Copland – Appalachian Spring
Grieg – Piano Concerto
Saint Saens – Symphony no 3