Saturday 17th June 2017 – Queens College, Taunton
Conductor – David Hedges
Rossini – Overture Barber of Seville
Dvorak – Serenade for Wind Op 44
Brahms – Symphony no 2
As a good starter for a concert, Rossini’s overture to The Barber of Seville is hard to beat. Somerset County Orchestra opened their performance on 17th June with this much-loved piece, and caught our attention at once. From an unusually measured start, under conductor David Hedges, the playing grew in energy and tempo until the piece concluded brilliantly. The players accomplished the trademark “Rossini crescendo” with ease, leaving the audience in no doubt of the quality of the playing.
Forces were much reduced for the Dvorak Serenade in D minor. Only 10 players took the stage, but this chamber ensemble had charm and clarity. We heard each instrumental line clearly, forming a graceful whole, and praise is due to the cello – always audible and weaving nimbly among all the wind instruments. The “Bohemian minuet” in the second movement was especially pleasing, the delightful irregularities of rhythm articulated nicely. Adept French horns pointed these elusive figures, if occasionally a little too loudly. The final movement showed a fine understanding of the light and shade of the piece, but needed a little more energy at the conclusion.
Finally, we heard Brahms’ mighty Second Symphony. Back to full strength, the orchestra was really put through its paces for this work. Technical wobbles, such as uncertain brass entries and some intonation problems in the upper strings, could not detract from the power of the ensemble. Light and shade, peace and distraction, were well portrayed in this bittersweet work. Once again, off-beat rhythms and dance-like passages were very well managed. All sections of the orchestra captured the varying moods of the last movement, leading to an exciting finale. Sue Goodman, 20-06-17
Saturday 11th March 2017 – St James Church, Taunton
Conductor – David Hedges Soloist – Bekki Chambers
Howells – Elegy for viola, string quartet and string orchestra
Holst – The Perfect Fool
Thomas Tallis – Third Mode Melody
Vaughan Williams – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Berlioz – Harold in Italy
In the latest of a series of concerts commemorating the Centenary of World War I, Somerset County Orchestra offered an imaginative programme to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience in St James Church on 11 March.
The first work – a sombre Elegy by Herbert Howells in memory of a fellow music student killed at Mons – showed richness of tone and impressive coordination from the orchestra’s strings, and introduced the evening’s viola soloist, Rebecca Chambers. Bekki grew up in Somerset, has played in many top orchestras and is now a principal in the English National Opera orchestra. She delivered the sorrowful but lyrical solo part with warmth and commitment.
Howells was deeply influenced by Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis – a haunting, modal melody reminiscent of folk music – also received a fine performance, both reflective and passionate. In inspired pieces of planning, the performance was preceded by the actual melody performed movingly by four singers – Lorna Anderson, Alice Quayle, Peter Evans and Mike Wager – and conductor David Hedges relocated his musicians to achieve the spacial separation and ethereal echo effects called for by the music.
In these challenging pieces the string section displayed technical skill and musicianship not always found in largely amateur orchestras: in the rest of the programme the wind, brass and percussion showed themselves to be equals of their colleagues. Gustav Holst’s ballet music The Perfect Fool is an orchestral showpiece full of quirky melodies, catchy rhythms and a kaleidoscope of instrumental colour representing earth, water and fire. The performance crackled with energy and precision.
Finally, Bekki Chambers returned as soloist in the symphony “Harold in Italy’ by the unpredictable Romantic genius Hector Berlioz. Partly programmatic (the solo viola represents Byron’s Childe Harold), partly autobiographical, the four movements represent different moods and events which all require (and received) precise and alert musical characterisation. The solo part, at times athletic, dramatic and voluptuous, was played with commanding authority.
Special tribute must be paid to David Hedges for the imperturbable and unobtrusive, yet highly effective way in which he inspired his musicians to give distinguished performances of very demanding works. Andrew Carter
Saturday 4th December 2016 – St Mary’s Church, Chard / Sunday 11th December 2016 – St Mary’s Church, Taunton
Conductor – David Hedges Soloist – Alex Ennis
Mozart – Don Giovanni Overture
Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending
Beethoven – Symphony no 3 Eroica
Saturday 29th October 2016 – Queen’s College, Taunton
Conductor – David Hedges Soloist – Philip Tebb
Verdi – Force of Destiny
Mahler – Leider eines fahrenden geselle
Mozart – Madamina, il catalogo e questo Don Giovanni
Dvorak – New World Symphony
Tuesday 11th October 2016 – The Castle School, Taunton
Conductor – David Hedges Soloist – Hannah Deason-Barrow
Grieg – Excerpts from Peer Gynt Suites no 1 & no 2
Dvorak – Excerpts from New World Symphony
John Williams – Star Wars
Wood – Fantasia on British Sea Songs
Elgar – Pomp and Circumstance March no 1
Parry – Jerusalem