Reviews

Reviews

  • WILTSHIRE YOUTH JAZZ ORCHESTRA / GWILYM SIMCOCK

    Sunday 26 March 2017

    3:00PM

    Purple shirts, gleaming silver and brass instruments, and twenty four young people – all looking so easy with themselves as if they were going to spend a quiet afternoon in Lyme Regis or somewhere. Onto the stage they’d come, followed by their conductor, Professor of Jazz Piano at the R.A.M., Gwilym Simcock. Then the bite of sound as they burst into their first piece. A cracking good opener. Astounding breath control and nimble fingers. It even got better as the afternoon progressed. What I loved most were pieces for a small ensemble consisting of trumpet, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, percussion, double bass, electric guitar, and Simcock playing the piano. Great ease, fluency and feeling for line.

    Two performers in particular: the electric guitar player, one leg over the other supporting the guitar, an avalanche of blonde hair streaming down over her right cheek from a loose topknot, with an attitude of peaceful serenity, playing complex solos with an easy sureness of touch and dexterity. Two percussionists; one very young and what a sense of rhythm, drive and timing. My word, he could go places.

    So many things to say. A lot of new music and an encore led by Mike Daniels, their Musical Director. A great afternoon.

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    Average rating: 4

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  • This evening we were led into fresh pastures where after the delight and possible familiarity we enjoyed in Mendelssohn’s quartet in E flat, we were confronted head-on by Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite with its 12-tone compositional technique. This was a revelation which I found totally exhilarating. The transaction process between players and audience in a live performance of this sort turned the idea of listening to it on the hi-fi at home utterly implausible. Energy, romance, adoration, doubt, despair, guilt – they were all there in a superbly crafted performance that showered the audience with streams, sometimes torrents, of sound and colour in a way that seemed to penetrate all the hidden nooks and crannies of personal consciousness.

    We returned to more familiar tonal territory after the interval in an impassioned performance of Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A minor. Here the Quartet was joined by Alasdair Beatson. I wonder how many in the audience had experienced a transition by the Doric from four to five players. We were already familiar with the joyfully focussed and passionate ensemble playing of this quartet so one could almost ask “What more?” The presence of this like-minded musician added another rich dimension by both his playing and his engaging personality. A pianist of many year’s association with the quartet, he brought with him a wonderfully intelligent musical awareness and substance that merged in every respect with the much loved composite identity of the quartet.

    There was a deeply strange opening to this quintet which, after its development led into the most beautiful second movement, shaped such as only Elgar could do so, played with heartfelt yearning - yet totally controlled. Yes - utterly beautiful. The third movement transported us to a triumphant conclusion.

    For me this Doric concert was the most memorable of the many I have attended. I’m having the front page of the programme, with all their signatures, framed.

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    Average rating: NaN

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  • SCHUBERT ENSEMBLE

    Saturday 18 March 2017

    7:30PM

    First the Shostakovitch Piano Quintet in G minor Op 57 of 1940. How could so engaging a work ever have been written under such circumstances? The programme notes refer to its direct emotional power and this was surely released with a great understanding of all its changes in mood.

    Charlotte Bray, in person, described the process of inspiration and the writing of her piece ‘Zustӓnde’ in the pre-concert talk (all of which, by the way, are well worth attending). The piece had been commissioned jointly by the Schubert Ensemble and the WMC, and Charlotte said what an extraordinary privilege and a delight it was to have actually worked at this early stage in her composing life with such a prestigious quartet. She had clearly been hugely impressed by the grandeur of the icy scenery, and the performance – a World Premier – clearly reflected this in intensity and colour. Her photographs are on her website and went as far as providing the urge amongst a supervised group of local children to compose something themselves. Its recording was played back after the interval and was novel and atmospheric.

    Finally Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E flat major Op 47. Do I have to say anything? Sheer magic, especially the poignancy of the beautiful cello solo that opened and closed the slow movement.

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    Average rating: 5

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  • THE ROYAL OPERA IL TROVATORE (AS LIVE)

    Wednesday 01 February 2017

    7:15PM

    Well WMC, what a show that was!
    I have never before attended an as-live screening with you, and I was mightily impressed. The image quality was top-class as was the clarity of the sound system.
    The performance itself was memorable, but the pick of the soloists was undoubtedly the mezzo, an opinion that was evidently shared by the entire ROH audience, in spite of her spending much of the time singing from a kneeling or even laid-down position. Respect!
    My only slight criticism is that the default volume could have been upped a little, but that is nit-picking. I have good hearing.
    Thank you for an up-lifting evening.
    dBx

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    Average rating: 4

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  • WEST OF ENGLAND YOUTH ORCHESTRA / NATASHA MARSH SOPRANO

    Sunday 01 January 2017

    7:30PM

    Superb concert! Wonderful, energised and sensitive music-making from these young musicians, inspired and led so brilliantly by their conductor Timothy Redmond. What a delight too to hear Welsh soprano Natasha Marsh - I particularly enjoyed her powerful rendition of Who Wants to Live Forever?

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    Average rating: 5

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  • ALISON BALSOM TRUMPET / TOM POSTER PIANO

    Saturday 29 October 2016

    7:30PM

    What a spectacular concert; a feast for the senses from beginning to end! Alison, in full length black slim-fitting trouser suit and silver stilettoes (perfectly coordinated with her trumpet), made the most complex and intricately rhythmic passages seem effortless, with huge long sustained notes and golden silvery tone. Occasional deep breaths and then more dazzling streams of sound. She was smiley, engaging, articulate, funny and really delighted to be playing in the WMC. What a talent. She was accompanied by Tom in perfect symbiotic harmony in a finely chosen programme – Honegger, Hindemith, Enescu and a piece of their own joint composition. This contrasted with a Schubert Impromptu displaying a profound simplicity and Tom’s absolute mastery of the keyboard.

    In the second half they were joined by Becky Smith, principal trombonist with the ENO and a friend of Alison since childhood music. Together they played the Brahms Horn Trio in E Flat Major (the horn here being substituted by trumpet) showing the empathy which can only come from shared experience. As an encore they played Gershwin's They can't take that away from me to rapturous applause. Altogether a perfect and wonderful evening.

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    Average rating: 5

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  • ENGLISH TOURING OPERA

    Sunday 23 October 2016

    7:30PM

    This was like no other performance. Led into the swirl and hum of ordinary peoples’ lives by the turbulent orchestral introduction, we were suddenly engulfed in a momentous burst of sound from the three choirs ‘Herr, unser Herrsche….’ as though a great light was to proclaim that the greatest of all Passions was now to be enacted. It was a stunning start to an extraordinary evening. The singing was given greater depth by the way the choruses and chorales were parcelled out between the different choirs, giving each the opportunity to shine, as they did. The breadth, substance, quality and control of the singing was impressive and intensely moving.

    What made the performance even more memorable was the gentle stagecraft created by members of English Touring Opera who provided the soloists and, in turns, the Evangelist. In so doing they heightened the sense of narrative and drama in a way you’d never otherwise experience. It was brilliantly underplayed choreography which, in my mind, truly captured the essence of the Passion.

    Thank you WMC.

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    Average rating: 5

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  • ENGLISH TOURING OPERA

    Sunday 23 October 2016

    7:30PM

    This was the WMC at its finest: the UK's leading touring opera company + the Old Street Band + Cantamus Chamber Choir + the new WMC community choir. The performance was engrossing, presented with profound emotion and depth, with glorious choral singing and total commitment from players and soloists. A very, very special evening.

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    Average rating: 5

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  • JEREMY DENK PIANO

    Friday 23 September 2016

    7:30PM

    Just how many fingers does he have??????

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    Average rating: 5

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  • WEST OF ENGLAND YOUTH ORCHESTRA / MATTHEW TRUSLER VIOLIN

    Friday 26 August 2016

    7:30PM

    Another appearance of this splendid orchestra in an ambitious programme, performing to a deservedly full house and conducted by Timothy Redmond. It was a larger orchestra than last time with 82 on the stage and a noticeable increase in the number of viola players providing a more comfortable balance in the string section – and four double basses. I found the sheer volume of sound in the densely orchestrated first piece – Rachmaninov’s ‘The Isle of the Dead’ – a bit difficult to cope with, but thought the quality of performance by individual sections of the orchestra in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.1 outstanding. I hope those young people really enjoyed playing in it with the closeness and utter virtuosity of Matthew Trusler.

    Mahler Symphony No.1 occupied the second half of the concert and once again one could marvel at the ease with which the individual sections of the orchestra, one after the other, created a totally coherent flow of music. A melody appears and is then swept away as another breaks the surface. The tensions were seamless and wonderfully engaging. And eight horns, all standing up in the closing moments of the symphony. Thrilling.

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    Average rating: 5

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