Chineke! Orchestra review

GRIZZLED OLD MUSIC CRITIC TAPS HIS FEET

Chineke! Orchestra
Symphony Hall *****
There's something rather wonderful and intriguing about Europe's first majority Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) symphony orchestra. Founded in 2015 with a mission to 'champion change and celebrate diversity' Chineke! has rapidly become a world-wide phenomenon.
So why wasn't something so obviously needed attempted ages ago? Never mind, it's happened now and the results continue to be very impressive.
In their 2017 debut appearance at Symphony Hall Chineke! played safe, with Elgar and Mendelssohn the traditional offerings, while some little-known Samuel Coleridge-Taylor doffed a hat to 'diversity'. Last week's programme, though, under the wise and experienced hands of multi-talented conductor Wayne Marshall contained more rewarding and extended challenges.
Grieg's benign Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 held a few surprises, chiefly because it was so well played, Marshall drawing out all the tonal beauty of finely-honed woodwinds and delicate, golden-sheened strings. Indeed, rarely have I heard this quintessential charmer treated with such loving care and detail.
At the other end of the scale Marshall gave us an immensely musical reading of Dvorak's Symphony No. 7, which prioritised melody over forced romantic rhetoric and, in the gritty Finale, demonstrated a potent ability to shape and sustain an extended organic structure.
In between these mainstream favourites 'Callaloo – A Caribbean Suite for Piano and Orchestra' by Canadian (with Trinidadian family connections) pianist/composer Stewart Goodyear provided a high-spirited, rhythmically driven contrast that fulfilled all diversity requirements with tremendous verve and excitement.
The five-movement work depicts the glitz and energy of a traditional carnival and as a virtuoso showpiece (one wonders how many other pianists are likely to tackle it) brilliantly fulfils its brief. Goodyear, of course, was terrific and the Chineke! percussionists also had a ball.
As did the audience; and even this grizzled old music critic found his foot tapping along in unguarded moments.
David Hart

'end

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