Orchestra of the Swan review

THIS PASTORAL SYMPHONY IS A HIGHLIGHT OF CHRISTOPHER MORLEY'S REVIEWING YEAR


ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN
Stratford Play House *****
You'd be hard pressed to find a happier bunch of musicians than Stratford's Orchestra of the Swan. They play with a smile which spreads throughout their performances, and Tuesday's concert positively beamed.
Daniele Rosina was the conductor, his confident geniality and clarity of beat drawing oodles of goodwill from these remarkable players, beginning with a Haydn Symphony no.88 which combined both elegance and energy.
Never mind the venue's boxy acoustic, such was the orchestra's projection under Rosina that we appreciated every neatly-turned phrase and apt accentuations, and the empathetic interplay between woodwinds and strings.
Music for Sunflowers by Joe Cutler, head of composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, is an absolutely gorgeous piece, and this was shamefully only its second hearing since its premiere a decade ago. A concertante for viola and strings, it is proudly lyrical, the orchestral accompaniment sometimes liltingly rocking, at other times deftly pizzicato, and it demands unobtrusive virtuosity, winningly supplied by soloist Rose Redgrave.
Someone in the audience asked me how I'd enjoyed this "squeaky door music" (actually the expression is "squeaky gate"). There's nothing squeaky about the music, I withered. And it should become a staple for any string orchestra performances.
And then came the icing on my cake, and certainly one of the highlights of my reviewing year, an absolutely flowing, supple Beethoven "Pastoral" Symphony from Rosina's fluent baton.
Here was lilt, sensitivity, flexible space for the music to breathe, and the woodwind responded admirably to Beethoven's many demands, not least in the famous birdsong coda at the end of what was here an idyllically flowing Scene by the Brook.
After such a serene scene-setting, the famous Storm erupted with a real sense of cataclysm, followed by a gloriously radiant Shepherds' Hymn, taking us into a beatifucallybenevolent sunset.
Christopher Morley

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