Review: Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra at Shrewsbury School

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Piano soloist Viv McLean
Piano soloist Viv McLean

Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra with conductor John Moore began their new season at the Alington Hall of Shrewsbury School with an engaging programme of two Scandinavian works surrounding Schumann’s piano concerto.

The evening opened with a short piece by the Danish composer Karl Neilsen – his Maskarade Overture. It was useful as a warm-up for the orchestra but had little other merit apart from its brevity.

Viv McLean was the soloist in the Schumann concerto, giving a workmanlike performance which never quite hit the heights. The opening cascade of descending chords seemed rather muted and lacked real bite. However, the following dialogue between soloist and orchestra was more convincing despite a few problems of ensemble in the woodwind The second movement was charmingly delivered and achieved the lyricism found in many of Schumann’s miniature piano pieces. The last movement, with its contrasting syncopated middle section, had some pleasing moments, but neither the orchestra nor the pianist seemed totally comfortable with the pace that was set.

The fifth Symphony by Sibelius completed the programme. Here the orchestra conveyed the stark Scandinavian landscape well – from the opening horn call, through the great waves of string arpeggios, to the serenity of the ‘Andante’ section and the majestic brass writing in the final movement the orchestra navigated skilfully between the tenderness and ferocity so compelling in this work.

This was a most enjoyable concert; it is to their great credit that the orchestra can be slightly ring-rusty yet still be musically convincing.

Reviewed by: Bob Wysome on Wednesday 2nd December at Alington Hall, Shrewsbury School.

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