Sunday 3rd December 2017 – St Mary’s Church, Chard/Sunday 10th December 2017 – St Mary’s Church, Taunton
Conductor – David Hedges Narrator – Suzanne Tottle
Haydn – Symphony No. 6
Bartok – Romanian Dances
Schubert – Symphony No 6
Arr. Keedes – Twelve Days of Christmas
Saturday 21st October 2017 – Queens College, Taunton
Conductor – David Hedges Soloist – Stuart Paul
Beethoven – Coriolan Overture
Hummel – Trumpet Concerto
Shostakovitch – Symphony no 5
Stunning is the only word to describe Somerset County Orchestra’s concert last weekend! They took on Shostakovich’s Symphony no.5 and gave a gutsy and committed performance of this 20th century masterpiece. It is an extraordinary work, described (though probably not by the composer) as “A Soviet artist’s creative reply to just criticism”. The sombre atmosphere of the opening passage was effectively rendered, with the piano as an orchestral instrument adding to the dark textures. The first movement reaches a grotesque and threatening climax, with overwhelming waves of sound from all sections of the orchestra, and if the strings had occasional moments of sour intonation this just added to the general frenzy of the music.
The second movement is calmer, and the several solo phrases from various sections of the ensemble came over very effectively. The music is deceptive, lyrical dance motifs becoming parodies of themselves, and the players responded intuitively to all the nuances. Hushed phrases in the melancholy third movement had an agonising intensity, and indeed the pianissimo themes were as impressive as the fortissimo moments. For the fourth movement, full strength was regained, the music battering its hearers with a visceral intensity.
David Hedges commanded his forces with his usual attention to detail, and a well-judged overall plan of tempi and dynamics. He had given a fascinating pre-concert talk about this mighty work, and we were able to pick out all the details of motifs and melodies that he had illustrated for us.
But this was just half of a very intriguing concert. Before the interval we heard Hummel’s Trumpet Concert in E♭ major. Stuart Paul was the assured soloist, brilliantly showing off the trumpet’s technical virtuosity – as the composer had intended. The orchestra moved sensitively between accompanying and supporting the soloist, and flourishing assertively when playing alone. Ensemble playing was excellent throughout, with the slow movement being particularly fluent and engaging.
And as a starter we heard Beethoven’s imposing Coriolan Overture, a dramatic and sonorous start to the evening. The players’ rhythmic certainty gave clarity to the restless and jagged melodies of this turbulent work.
All in all, an evening of live, large-scale, orchestral music to remember. Sue Goodman, 23-10-2017.