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Review of Concert on 27th March 2010

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Two great works received two impressive performances by nearly seventy members of the city's symphony orchestra in the kind acoustic of St Swithun's Performing Arts Centre. The whole ensemble displayed commitment, energy, balance and commendable intonation before a large and enthusiastic audience. Winchester Symphony Orchestra with Alexander SitkovetskyBeethoven's Eroica Symphony cruelly exposes most departments but there was unflagging momentum throughout the quick movements, gorgeous flute and oboe solos in the Funeral march and an infectious optimism in the finale (despite Beethoven lowering the temperature in its Andante section). Subtle dynamic shading was a feature of both solo and group contributions in all four movements. The upper strings provided confident, lithe playing throughout this work and seemed to have been inspired by the model set by the soloist in the the first part of the programme.

This was devoted to the huge, rich and challenging violin concerto of Elgar. Like Beethoven, the composer provides a vast array of motifs and textures and also produces a more restrained penultimate section to his finale. This is the famous accompanied cadenza over 'thrummed' and muted strings - an unusual and highly atmospheric piece of scoring. Elgar's deep knowledge of the orchestra means that ideas are shared between all instruments and here the orchestra reached new levels of intelligent, reassured playing. As an aspiring solo violinist Elgar also knew how to exploit his concerto soloist. Guest violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky was awesomely self-effacing in this role yet produced both warmly seductive tone in the lower registers and consummate virtuosity in the multi-stoppings and more stratospheric pitches. The dynamic balance between orchestra and solo violin was never compromised. Most remarkable in this excellent concert was the fact that  WSO had only had two hours rehearsal with its superlative soloist and the outstanding degree of co-ordination and pliant response to Elgar's variable tempi had to be achieved by the watchful, commanding presence of Nicholas Wilks on the podium. He should be proud of his band and they of their conductor.

Derek Beck

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 April 2010 01:03

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