Orchestra of the Swan
Number 8, Pershore Friday 12 February
The first Pershore concert in Orchestra of the Swan’s new Worcestershire series took place on Friday at Number 8, Pershore. This well run venue has a lovely auditorium, almost full on Friday evening, and although the players said that the sound from where they were playing was rather dry, the sound in the auditorium was excellent: clear, bright and vibrant.
All three Pershore concerts focus on Mozart, his friends, admirers and rivals. The concert opened with Symphony no 25/37, the opening introductory section by Mozart and the rest by Michael Haydn, brother of the more famous Joseph. There are apparently several versions of this score. Friday’s was the one where Haydn’s writing was edited by Mozart, very different from the original. It is an early version of the concerto with just three movements and from the outset the orchestra’s playing was crisp, bright and impeccably timed.
There is a distinct advantage in having as soloist the principal player in the orchestra as the soloist can draw on vast experience of listening to the sixteen players forming the ensemble, and this was strongly evidenced in the first of the two concertos, Mozart’s Flute Concerto no 1, an early version of the concerto form with just three movements. It was a delicate and elegant conversation between Diane Clark’s flute and the orchestra, impeccably timed and balanced. The beautifully played flashy cadenzas showed off all Diane Clark’s musicianship without taking away from the sense that they, too were part of a conversation.
In marked contrast was the Horn Concerto no 4. The horn doesn’t make an elegant noise and its propensity for accumulating liquid which had to be ejected tends, in my view, to make it rather vulgar and comic. It reminded me that musical taste is very much a personal thing. I’m sure Francesca Moore-Bridger loves her instrument; she certainly plays with poise and passion; in terms of conversation, though, this was one of those rather boisterous ones where the horn shouts at the orchestra rather than engages in subtle discussion with it.
The last work in this splendid concert was Joseph Haydn’s Symphony no 44, ‘Farewell’. Conductor David Curtis pointed out that, in F sharp minor, the key is a long way from the ‘home key’ of C Major, just as Haydn’s players at the Esterhazy Court were a long way from their home in Vienna. The interesting slow second movement represents some of this longing to be home in its sense of subdued nostalgia. The second of four movements, it stops rather than reaching musical resolution before the slightly edgy court dance which just fizzles out and the final movement expresses the players’ desire to return home to Vienna as they leave the stage two by two leaving only the principal first and second violins to end it. It is a delightful and inventive work, beautifully played.
The concert was a wonderful start to what will no doubt be a memorable series of three concerts in Pershore, most enthusiastically received by the audience.