The European Union Chamber Orchestra gave a well-planned, attractive concert on Saturday 22nd October at the United Reformed Church. It was part of Shropshire Music Trust’s daring 2022-23 season; a season which is seeing a wide variety of events. The warm acoustic was perfect for the orchestra, a slightly larger group than we have been used to.
The first half might have been called “Wondrous reworkings”; for it consisted of three pieces which had been seen in earlier forms. Britten’s “Simple Symphony” was completed at the ripe old age of twenty – he based the four movements on his own compositions written when he was 12 or 13 years old! Their titles were amusingly revealing; Boisterous Bourrée, Playful Pizzicato, Sentimental Sarabande and Frolicsome Finale. This fine group of musicians went straight into a lively, full-blooded performance; their playing was a delight with well-chosen tempi and glorious string sound which was helped by the Church’s resonant acoustic.
Mozart’s lovely Adagio in F major K411 was also an arrangement of an earlier piece. It too was played impeccably, leading us into the last piece of the first half. Bach’s Double Concerto for violin and oboe in D minor, BWV 1060, is a masterpiece; the original is lost but the performing version is a transcription from another Bach concerto! The soloists were violinist Darragh Morgan who also directed the orchestra and Mark Baigent on oboe. This was a moment of musical magic; they played with total commitment to the dynamics and tonal qualities, always listening to each other; the Adagio in particular was sublime
The second half might have been called the English giants for it focussed on three of the great figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Holst, Elgar and Vaughan Williams. The St. Paul’s Suite by Holst led the way. The opening jig, a much loved (and hummed!) number, was given exactly the right vivacious treatment, as were the other three movements, culminating in “Greensleeves”. The whole work was given an excellent luxurious treatment.
Before the final work, the Orchestra played Elgar’s “Elegy for Strings”, possibly in memory of his friend Jaeger, performed with great sensitivity. Jaeger was the inspiration for Nimrod in the Enigma variations this piece seems not to be memorable in the same way.
Vaughan Williams’ Concerto Grosso for strings brought the concert to a rousing conclusion. Not one of RVW’s best known compositions, it is a fine work and it was given a memorable performance. The composer was looking back to the Concerto Grosso form, containing some lively dance music but it also contains some moments of the luxurious yet austere writing which was often the hallmark of RVW’s greatest compositions.
This was a beautiful evening of superb music the venue was perfect, the musicians on top form. And not least the Church was warm!
The Music Trust’s next concert is on Nov 18th at St Alkmund’s Church; the Carducci Quartet will be playing the next in the ‘Connections’ series.