Orchestra of the Swan review

A SUBTLE THREAD WOVEN BY ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN STRINGS


ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN
Stratford Play House *****
Whether by happy accident or design, this remarkable concert from the strings of an Orchestra of the Swan which has been invigoratingly rejuvenated over the last year or so had a subtle thread linking all the works in the programme.
It was good to welcome Kenneth Woods back onto the OOTS podium, and as a cellist himself he drew telling nuances of attack and articulation from his willing forces, not least in the awesome Mozart Adagio and Fugue which began the evening in such splendid fashion.
This is Mozart at his grittiest, and the OOTS strings dug in, hewing jagged lines of immense power which still ring in the memory.
Apparently the last word on Mahler's dying lips was "Mozart", and we continued with Stadlmair's astonishingly resourceful string orchestra arrangement of Mahler's posthumous Tenth Symphony's first movement. There is telling use of solo strings here, beginning with an eloquent viola solo from Daisy Spiers, and this was a reading under Woods which combined delicacy with intensity, appropriately expressionistic, and evoking the Schoenberg Verklarte Nacht (OOTS must give us that soon) which heralded that movement in music.
David Matthews worked on the performing version of Mahler Ten, but is of course a much-acclaimed composer in his own right as well. He was present here to hear his mini-concerto for viola and strings, Winter Remembered, achingly pastoral, lyrically melodic, pulsatingly rhythmic, and sitting so well on its scoring.
Carmen Flores was the eloquent and impressive soloist in this magical performance. The question-mark ending left us all hanging.
But we were brought back to earth with a characterful Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge by Benjamin Britten (Britten revered Mahler, and Matthews also worked as an assistant to Britten -- the chain is complete). There was wonderful empathy here between the section leaders, and Woods' players brought all Britten's string rhetoric to the fore, enjoying every jot of this brilliant score.
Christopher Morley

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