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Review: Maidstone Symphony Orchestra's November concert at Mote Park, Maidstone

Maidstone Symphony Orchestra
Maidstone Symphony Orchestra

Mote Hall, November 30

Brian Wright obviously enjoys challenging both his players and his audience.

Last Saturday’s concert at the Mote Hall brought us a club sandwich with chunky crusts and a fascinating filling.

The orchestra blazed into action with Berlioz’s Overture Roman Carnival, with the brass and woodwind indulging themselves in the composer’s enthusiasm, but not before a limpid cor anglais solo from David Montague.

The strings were more than up to the extravagance of the final pages putting everyone in a good mood for the following concerto.

Reinhold Glière is hardly a household name and his horn concerto, though loved by those who know it, is not frequently performed.

Tom Bettley
Tom Bettley

Tom Bettley was advertised as a local boy but there is nothing domestic about his approach to the work or to his professionalism as a soloist.

Glière spent time studying with a professional horn player before completing the work and this shows in the challenges he provides for the soloist.

Not only are there some formidable technical passages in the outer movements but the long lyrical sections are equally difficult, and it was these which were particularly impressive.

The Andante has a Tchaikovsky-like melodic line which wanders with great beauty – a beauty finely crafted in Tom Bettley’s gentle and mellifluous playing.

By the end it was easy to see why players love the work – perhaps we might learn to if we heard it more often.

After the interval the orchestra brought us two large-scale romantic works, commencing with Richard Strauss’ Tod und Verklärung. The opening section caught the timelessness of the piece with ease, the long string passages unfolding with skill and great sensitivity.

Brian Wright maintained the tension here, creating a fine balance between anxiety and ennui. The double climax was splendidly phrased and the strings were at their best in the outpouring of joy in the final pages.

Stravinsky’s 1919 suite from The Firebird was probably the most familiar item on the programme and brought the evening to an exultant conclusion.

After a gentle Round Dance, the Finale built skilfully – including a fine bassoon solo from Philip Le Bas – allowing the colours and textures of the score to shine through. Wind and brass ensembles were at their most relaxed, and the percussion came into its own.

A suitably large and enthusiastic audience clearly enjoyed the whole evening. If anybody thinks I may be overlooking the odd missed note or fluff, the odd less than perfect entry, then let me assure them I am well aware of the minor imperfections of any live performance.

There are very few orchestras in my experience who can get through an evening with every note perfectly formed – that only happens on carefully edited recordings – but the excitement of a live performance is far more worthwhile than any CD, no matter who the orchestra is!

Dr Brian Hick

- MSO’s next concert is on Saturday, February 1, featuring works by Mendelssohn, Sibelius and Beethoven. Visit www.mso.org.uk

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