Orchestraof the Swan Strauss/Ravel review

STRAUSS AND RAVEL WONDERFUL PROGRAMME-PARTNERS

ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN
The Courtyard, Hereford *****
Adding Hereford's Courtyard to Orchestra of the Swan's regular schedule touring out of Stratford seems to be proving a win-win both for audiences and orchestra. I bumped into several players dining in the excellent restaurant pre-concert, and they seemed to be in holiday mood.
Not that there was anything casual in their performance of this brilliantly-conceived programme (whether by accident or design, all four works were valedictory, but, because of the stylistic differences between the two composers involved, never cloying).
Ravel framed the evening, beginning with his orchestration of his poignant little piano piece Pavane pour une Infante Defunte. This was delivered with such warmth and affection under Michael Seal's direction, and the vibrato of the opening horn solo was perfectly appropriate, virtually specified in the composer's score.
Another Ravel transfer from piano to orchestra concluded proceedings, his Tombeau de Couperin pointed and crisp, and Seal finding all the threatening Great War darkness in the Forlane's Trio.
On the opposing side to Ravel in that war was Richard Strauss, whose attitude to both World Wars remains enigmatic. At the end of World War II he produced two achingly nostalgic works, the sunnily autumnal Oboe Concerto, and the heartbroken Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings.
Nicholas Daniel was the unflashily spry soloist in the concerto, assimilating himself into the transparent orchestral scoring, to the extent of sharing a gorgeously well-blended duet with OOTS' principal oboe Alun Darbyshire. And whether consciously or not, Seal found a tribute to Strauss' great friend Mahler by highlighting a tiny little quivering motif which appears so often in Mahler's late orchestral works.
Assembled into a compact semicircular ensemble, the OOTS strings responded to the Metamorphosen by treating it as a giant piece of chamber music. Seal, himself an experienced violinist, shaped the entries into what emerged as a gorgeously flowing structure, breathing organically until we arrived at the well-prepared Eroica quotation.
Christopher Morley

Comments

  1. Jim PageMay 19, 2019

    Yes, it truly was a wonderful performance of the Strauss Oboe Concerto. It's such an elusive work and only with the sympathetic understanding of such artists as Nick Daniel and Michael Seal does it come off. I remember being so disappointed with the recording that Leon Goossens made in 1947 (?) in which there was no rubato at all. He just rattles it off!

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  2. I agree it was a beautiful concert. It wasn't Alun Darbyshire that was duetting with Nick in the oboe concerto though. It was OOTS' cor anglais player. I don't know her name but might be worth correcting that? She also played beautifully.

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