Orchestra of the Swan
In the past when Orchestra of the Swan has featured a newly commissioned work the audience has stayed away in droves. Not so in this 21st Anniversary year, mainly because of the imaginative way in which the new work has been introduced. At each of the concerts a newly commissioned work will be paired with a familiar classic, on this occasion Douglas J Cuomo’s Objects in Mirror with JS Bach’s Brandenberg Concerto no2 in F major which formed Cuomo’s inspiration for his new work. David Curtis made this new work accessible for the audience by having the orchestra play very short extracts of the Bach followed by short extracts of the Cuomo in order to show how Cuomo used some of Bach’s ideas and motifs, thereby helping the audience to find ways of listening to and accessing this new work. Brilliant. Particularly as the last two works on the programme were Bach’s Brandenberg Concerto no3 in G major followed by Stravinsky’s Concert for E flat for chamber Orchestra ‘Dumbarton Oaks’, a tribute to Bach’s work.
The programme began with Steve Martland’s arrangement of JS Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, an extraordinary arrangement which captured some of the ways in which Bach prefigures dynamic shifts and emphatic moments of contemporary rock music.
The harpsicord is barely audible in most Baroque music but Cuomo gives it real character and moments to itself so that for a change we could admire David Ponsford’s skilled playing and interactions with other instruments. I loved the intense and passionate second movement, the Ballad, where Cuomo showed he was not frightened to create slow delicacy, epitomised by Hugh Davies’s lovely playing of the muted trumpet.
Bach’s decision to have three violins rather than the customary division between first and second violins in Brandenberg 3 gave the audience quite a different string ensemble sound with just the four string lines rather than the customary five. And who said that minimalism was a twentieth century phenomenon? The two chord second movement must have been as startling to eighteenth century audiences as it was to us on Tuesday.
What a wonderful concert it was. I can’t wait for the next one.