orchestra of the swan at RBC

ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire ****8

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY ENJOYS A STUDENT WORLD PREMIERE

Having given many world premieres as a cellist, Julian Lloyd Webber, on the podium of the resourceful Bradshaw Hall in his own Conservatoire, conducted his first-ever orchestral world premiere.
This was Surround, by 4th-year composition student Rosie Tee, the first in a planned series of premieres from RBC students to be given during each concert of Orchestra of the Swan's exciting new residency here. And Surround made an excellent impression, its three minutes unfolding with well-imagined orchestral timbres delivering subtly-coloured chords, and creating an Ivesian effect of shifting stasis -- and the little flute linger at the end was intriguing: question or affirmation?
The rest of the programme was given over to two of the greatest youthful prodigies in history (and not just musical, say I). Mendelssohn was represented by his teenage String Symphony no.6, its outer movements zestfully given, its central Menuetto intriguing with its string quartet first trio and its chorale-like second one.
And the mature Mendelssohn came with his wonderful Violin Concerto, soloist Tai Murray bringing a refreshingly spontaneous approach to this well-worn score, with inward, even reticent phrasing, a gutsy array of colour from her instrument, and seemingly effortless multiple-stopping. It was heartening to sense how closely the OOTS players were listening to each other and to her, and Lloyd Webber allowed the music to speak for itself, imposing no overweening maestroship. Personal thanks to Ms Murray for not overloading this experience with an encore.
Mature Mozart gave us a Marriage of Figaro Overture which was brisk, but still allowed the woodwind space to sparkle. Teenage Mozart at his most adolescently stormy came with the Symphony no.25 (already, and only aged 17), Lloyd Webber alert to all its turbulent drama, the oboes, bassoons and horn quartet spectacular in their contributions.
We had begun with a pre-concert discussion of music education and opportunities, Lloyd Webber, Murray and Tee all making valuable points -- and the audience responding with equal interest.
Christopher Morley

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