Review of Concert 27 June 2009
A Taste of France - 'French Feast's Tasty Starter'
The orchestra opened its all-French summer programme with Fauré's Pavane, highly appropriate for this evening, since it was conceived as an item for inclusion in a series of light summer concerts. In keeping with Belle Epoche mores, it is an elegant, albeit commercial, re-working of a Renaissance dance form, designed for entertainment rather than high art. In this performance it received a reading that displayed a pleasingly light touch for the most part although, towards the end, more than a hint of an English pastoral tone had crept into the orchestra's playing, a fuller and less pithy timbre that does not sit comfortably with Fauré's music.
Thus an elegant ambience gave way, to my ears at least, to a more bucolic and dramatic soundscape. More dramatic still is Berlioz's song-cycle Les Nuits d'Été, on this evening featuring the soprano Penelope Martin Smith. The text is unmistakably Romantic, potent imagery, heavy with symbolic and often dark meaning, aimed at exposing the essence of personal experiences. Martin Smith has a powerful rounded tone, a flexibility of enunciation, a range of vocal colour and control of dynamics that, combined with her crystal clear diction, resulted in a deeply emotive and expressive performance, particularly in her ability to melt into and re-emerge from the orchestral texture. For its part, the orchestra worked well with its singer to extract the maximum from the text. The orchestra opened the post-interval proceedings with more from Faure, this time his Sicilienne from the Pelleas et Melisande Suite.
We were presented with another light and unmistakably French piece, as a prelude to the main item of the second half, Bizet's Symphony in C major. This is the exuberat creation of a 17-yearold. Accordingly, it becomes the duty of any interpreter to consider its composer's age and experience and to infuse a performance with a youthful musical joie de vivre. This point had been taken on board by the orchestra as it worked through the score with brio and a strong performance.
Mark Mortimer (Kentish Gazette).
Sat 6th May, Colyer-Fergusson Hall, 7.30pm
with Whitstable Dance
Tickets at £15 and £8 available from the Gulbenkian Box Office
Our Spring Concert introduces a collaboration with Whitstable Dance which will allow local young people to share the pleasure of performance with the Orchestra in a presentation of music and dance from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet, The Nutcracker. The programme will focus on Act ii of the ballet in which the heroine, Clara, travels with the Prince (an erstwhile nutcracker) to the Land of Sweets where they are entertained. The Nutcracker is one of the Tchaikovsky's most popular compositions. The music contains some of his most memorable melodies including the Trepak and the famous Waltz of the Flowers and March, as well as the ubiquitous Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The ballet contains surprisingly advanced harmonies and a wealth of melodic invention. The atmosphere of magic and mystery is sustained by a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral suite Scheherazade, inspired by the tale of The Arabian Nights in which the Sultan’s wife deflects her imminent execution through skilful storytelling and eventually wins her reprieve. Like The Nutcracker, the music is adventurous and delightfully orchestrated.
Details of forthcoming concerts are also listed in the Events Diary of the Canterbury Arts Council website.