Review of Concert November 26th 2010

What a delight it is to witness the sheer enjoyment of orchestral musicians being transmitted to their audience.  An amateur orchestra, formed by both semi-professional and amateurs, young and more experienced together, gave a magical concert on Saturday, 27th November, 2010, at a packed St. Peter’s Methodist Church, starting off with a work which couldn’t have been more magical – Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice!

One cannot listen to this piece without imagining Walt Disney’s Fantasia and a frantic broom all over the place, based on Goethe’s poem and underpinned by the musical interpretation of Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra.  It takes a great sorcerer to put this all together and conductor Andrew Lowen did precisely this by guiding his orchestra in a vivid, symphonic scherzo.  Dukas’ brilliant and imaginative orchestration has produced a true tour-de-force of program music, which has seldom been matched and never exceeded as an audience favourite in this genre.

After a few issues with intonation, the orchestra warmed up to become crisp in its articulation, contrasting in its dynamic palette and very well balanced throughout.  This was followed by a suite from Bizet’s Carmen.

It is quite unfathomable for us nowadays to believe that the colourful and flamboyant Carmen by Bizet was a total failure when it was premiered at the Paris Opera in 1875 and considered “devoid of colour, musically obscure, totally un-dramatic and unoriginal and undistinguished”.  The second suite played tonight was put together by Ernest Giraud, after Bizet’s death.  It aims to give us a flavour of the highlights of the arias and choruses in the opera. 

Though there were a few wrong entries, some more prominent than others, and again a few issues with intonation, especially in certain sections, an energetic Canterbury Orchestra easily brought all this to life with steady, energetic, exciting rhythms, sensual, flowing, yearning, beautiful legato lines, dazzling colours and, once again, a fantastic job of balance throughout. 

Putting the spotlight on various musicians in the orchestra from the various solos in the woodwind section, to the first trumpeter who must be praised for the whole evening, to a strong string section, led by a ‘soaring’ Andre’ Allavena, who played his last concert with this orchestra before emigrating to Australia, and a brilliant percussion section, from its syncopated timpani parts to its brilliant conclusion with cymbals and triangles, this work gives all their ‘moment of glory’.

"I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again."  These are Saint-Saens’ own words about his so-called ‘Organ Symphony’.   Not an organ concerto, but definitely a work where the fifteen-year old organist George Inscoe gave his all.  Again, it took a short while for the orchestra to warm up upon its return for the second half of the programme, but the proud brass [despite them being quite dispersed in their stage layout] soon settled everything down.  A particularly strong string section, in the lower strings, which gives body to everything from within, especially from the viola section, majestic brass, virtuosic piano playing by Ian Thompson and a conductor who is both passionate and precise as well as sympathetic and understanding with his orchestra, made sure that this evening reached a climactic conclusion.

Michelle Castelletti

More Information

Canterbury Arts CouncilDetails of forthcoming concerts are also listed in the Events Diary of the Canterbury Arts Council website and on the Orchestra's Facebook page.

Interested in playing with the Canterbury Orchestra?

Call Nicky Pound, Canterbury Orchestra Manager on 01304 812755 or email us to find out whether we have vacancies.