Maidstone Symphony Orchestra

Mote Hall, Maidstone, Saturday 24 March 2018

Conventional programme planning need not be a problem when the works are well balanced and well played – as they were at the Mote Hall last night. A classical symphony, a romantic concerto and a symphony which lies somewhere between the two – not that the opening symphony was quite what the title might imply. Mozart’s Symphony No32 isn’t – a symphony that is. It is probably an overture, and quite a clever composition as the final section mirrors the opening. There was considerable delicacy in the playing, given that the orchestra was probably far larger than the composer had available to him at the time, but the central section needs that intimacy and certainly got it here.

Violinist Benjamin Baker is well known to the Maidstone audience after his fine Bruch last year but was an unexpected visitor on this occasion as a late, but very welcome, replacement for Bartosz Woroch who was rightly detained by more immediate family matters.

The Brahms violin concerto was a richly romantic contrast to the opening Mozart with its rapid changes of tempi and emotional impact. Benjamin Baker negotiates these with finesse and a subtle portamento which is always pleasing. The first movement cadenza brought with it the hinted swagger of a Hungarian dance before the warmth of the Adagio – with exceptional oboe playing from David Montague – and the clipped, tightly rhythmic finale. Happily he is due to return next season for the Tchaikovsky concerto.

After the interval we heard Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony which sits on the top of the hill looking back to the classical while peering into the romantic future. Some years ago Leonard Bernstein argued that it was quite possible to hear the sixth symphony as a classical work if one can ignore the titles added to the movements. This was certainly true of Brian Wright’s approach with its clean lines and clear sense of development. The strings had a wonderful sense of cantabile in the second movement without over-egging the romanticism.

The Scherzo starts off in classic form but the storm breaks the mould – almost literally given the intensity of Keith Price’s timpani playing, and the whine of the piccolo – giving way to the only developed musical line of the whole work in the final Allegretto. This was a very fine performance, musically well-paced as well as highly enjoyable.

The evening was a charity concert in aid of the Kent Community Foundation and the final concert of the season follows on Saturday 19th May with works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.  www.mso.org.uk

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