April 28th 2013 Concert Review

Gloucestershire Echo – 30th April 2013

Roger Jones

MODERN music began, it is claimed, with Debussy’s Prélude å l’après-midi d’un faune.

What better way then to start a programme of twentieth century music.

The dreamy opening solo by flautist Kay Wadwell and excellent harp playing of Catherine White created a highly atmospheric scene, and though some of the ensemble work may have lacked clarity, this was a commendable performance from the Cheltenham Phil.

Anyone lulled into an afternoon nap by this first item would have had a rude awakening with Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphoses.

It seemed as if all the brass players of Gloucestershire had turned up to play in this work which begins and ends with a lively march well supported by a large percussion section.

The scherzo with its Oriental flute melody provided another opportunity for Ms Wadwell to shine and the orchestra attacked the syncopated jazz rhythms with obvious relish.

Then concertgoers were transported back to Edwardian England with Vaughan Williams’ London Symphony.

The Thames at night, the hustle and bustle of the streets complete with hansom cabs and a lavendar seller, and so much more are evoked in this splendid work.

Duncan Westerman and his musicians captured beautifully the quiet atmosphere of the city just before dawn, and then with a flourish the city sprang to life.

The holiday atmosphere of Hampstead Heath engaged the attention followed by a effective quieter passage for strings and harp..

The slow movement depicting a gloomy Bloomsbury Square in November was very successful with muted strings over which cor anglais and trumpet played a plaintive lament, and so was the evocation of Edwardian nightlife seen from a distance.

However the finale, with its funeral march, felt anguished and doomladen.. Did the composer have some premonition in 1914 that the era was drawing to a close? This thought-provoking performance certainly gave a hint of dark times ahead.