Saturday 23rd March 2019 7:30 pm - Wiltshire Music Centre
English Folk Song Suite
Soloist - Lorna Davis
Rondeau from Abdelazar Suite
Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra’s programme on Saturday 23rd March was made up of the sort of music that gives you a warm glow of recognition as the first few bars of each piece are played; like the pleasure you get from bumping into an old friend in the street. This feeling was maintained by the orchestra’s able playing of an ambitious and challenging programme, and complemented by Philip Draisey’s enthusiastic conducting, which was itself a delight to watch.
Britten’s Matinées Musicales was a wonderful mix of the boisterous and delicate. Then Lorna Davis as soloist gave an animated and accomplished performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor. The cello sang, sometimes with laments, sometimes with a vigour that sent shivers down your spine. This was followed by Vaughan Williams’ Suite “English Folk Songs”, the sound of which, in full orchestra version, filled Wiltshire Music Centre’s sold-out auditorium gloriously.
The finale was Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell, but first we heard Purcell’s version of the theme in his Rondeau. Hearing the Rondeau first was a lovely lead into the Britten piece, and the orchestra played both with vigour and spirit. Kate Courage’s narration was subtly worked into the music and did a wonderful job of underlining its original educational intention without distracting at all. All sections of the orchestra played their parts beautifully, enjoying their moments in the spotlight and demonstrating how good an amateur orchestra can be.
Saturday November 17th 2018 - St. James' Church, Trowbridge
Conductor: Phil Draisey
Leader: Carmen Tunney
Hymn to the Fallen
Soloist - Rachel Stonham
Peer Gynt - Suites 1 & 2
FOR their autumn concert, the Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra took over St James' Church in their home town for an evening celebrating two of Scandinavia's biggest names in classical music, Norway's Edvard Grieg and Finland's Jean Sibelius.
But first, in a tribute to the recent Armistice centenary, the orchestra began with John Williams' Hymn to the Fallen, from Saving Private Ryan. Much as the piece diverted from the concert's overall theme, it was a fitting opening number. It was performed so well that the absence of vocals was not even noticeable.
The strings section truly led the way in this particular concert. But the star of the show was the soloist, whose incandescent talent provoked no little comment across the venue. Trowbridge's 17-year-old Rachel Stonham, a former student of TSO leader Carmen Tunney, impressed with an effortless display of confidence and almost military control and discipline over her instrument. A level of talent we have seen in the likes of Itzhak Perlman, Sarah Chang, Nicola Benedetti, and even the great Yehudi Menuhin.
Stonham shone in her performance of Sibelius' Violin Concerto, the movements of which successfully transitioned between the mournful and harrowing to the mischievous and fiery at the end.
Lighter notes followed in the second half, where the orchestra remained with Sibelius in a seamless performance of the Valse Triste. Again, it was the violins, violas and cellos that helped capture the playful alternation between the energetic and sorrowful moods.
Rounding off the concert, we heard a full rendition of both of Grieg's Peer Gynt Suites. Beginning with the lesser-known Suite No. 2, whose tones are far more violent, distressing and chaotic, as they tell tales of abduction and disaster until the understated, sad ending. In Suite No. 1, the section that truly stood out was the sorrowful and grief-riddled Death of Åse, in which the audience could join the hero as he mourns his mother.
The orchestra truly came together as one for what could not have been a better finale. The bit that everyone knows - In The Hall of the Mountain King. With conductor Philip Draisey's calm but firm control and direction, each artist in their own right succeeded in depicting that slow development from the quiet creeping to the chaotic crescendo.
Once again, the Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra never fails to impress or deliver an incomparable musical experience. This can be in part down to the leadership of Philip Draisey and Carmen Tunney, but also in their own respective talents as musicians. It would be impossible to name any one orchestra member who stood out - they all did equally extraordinarily.
Saturday July 7th 2018 - Holy Trinity Church, Bradford on Avon
Titans of Austria
Conductor: Phil Draisey
Leader: Carmen Tunney
Magic Flute Overture
Four Last Songs
Soloist Sian Dicker
While the rest of the country was celebrating England's victory over Sweden on Saturday, the Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra took over the Holy Trinity Church in Bradford-on-Avon to pay tribute to something quite different.
Three of the biggest names in classical music to come out of Austria, to be precise. A stunning programme of Strauss, Mozart and Mahler lay in store for the audience.
First, the Overture of The Magic Flute, the last opera Mozart wrote before his death. Here, the orchestra in its entirety successfully emulated the composer's blend of fantasy, comedy and tragedy, almost leaving the audience wanting to hear the rest of the opera afterwards.
But instead, the second section was left in the capable hands and incomparable voice of the singularly-gifted soprano soloist Sian Dicker with Richard Strauss' The Last Four Songs.
Simply exquisite. The flawless capture of the melancholy and romance in each song was undeniable, all within Dicker's glittering vibrato voice. With their largest orchestra to date, 70-something musicians, Dicker would have been forgiven for being dominated by the sounds around her. But instead, she took each song and made it her own.
Commendation should go to the command, control and clarity of conductor Phil Draisey, who almost became the eponymous Titan in his fierce direction of the final part of the concert.
Mahler's 1st Symphony (The Titan). And in the composer's 158th birthday, no less
In this section, the entire orchestra shone as they captured the essence and emotion in every movement, from the natural tranquility and simmering rage at the beginning to the chaos and devastation for the finale. With crescendo after crescendo, it was impossible not to be entertained.
The strings, percussion and brass sections deserve great commendation. In particular, all the French Horn players, timpanist Daniel Watt and harpist Ben Creighton Griffiths. Each are a credit to their instrument and their craft in helping bring together the mesmerising performance.
As ever, under the master leadership of conductor Draisey and leader Carmen Tunney, the Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra delivered another extraordinary performance that will keep us looking forward to their next concert.
Saturday March 17th 2018 - Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon
Conductor: Phil Draisey
Leader: Carmen Tunney
Suite for Variety Orchestra (Jazz Suite No. 2)
Rhapsody in Blue
Soloist - Jacob Byrne
Here's a first - reviewing a classical music concert. Behind food, music is probably my greatest love. All genres including jazz, classic rock, soul and reggae. Classical is my favourite. I had occasion to visit Wiltshire a couple of weeks back and, with the demand for a variety of content, including that concerning music, entertainment and events, I thought here would be a good place to start.
Putting an American and two Russians in the same room these days is likely to lead to a highly volatile situation. Or it may be the start of a joke - An American and two Russians walk into a bar- I'll let you come up with your own punchlines for that one
What it does make for is a highly ambitious and entertaining musical programme. The show, which was sold out on a very snowy St. Patrick's Day, opened with a full performance of the Jazz Suite #2 by Dmitri Shostakovich. You'll know the famous waltz when you hear it- it's unmistakable.
It was a strange feeling listening to this music. Half the time, with the resonant string sections, one felt transported to Russia of the era of the Tsars and the grandeur of the Romanovs. Like you were standing in the ballroom of one of the imperial palaces. On the other hand, however, with the dominant brass sounds, it was like being by the seaside near the bandstand. Saxophones drowned out the trombones in places, but otherwise a uniform performance.
Following that, a piano was wheeled out and in with it came the evening's soloist, Jacob Byrne. This was to play George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue - a piece where classical and jazz start to meld into one. From the opening clarinet solo. For the film buffs among the readership, this may ring a few bells from Woody Allen's Manhatten. Close your eyes and you might find yourself in downtown New York. The loneliness suggested by the noticeable silence and drop in atmosphere with every piano solo from Byrne could just as well set the scene of a Neo-Noir movie.
Byrne demonstrated his skills as a musician, and conductor Phil Draisey did the same on the piano for the first of two encores. Byrne had transposed Gershwin's Chinese Blues for piano duet, with the conductor serving as his second. A solo piece from Debussy followed.
Personally, I have never been fond of Rimsky-Korsakov's music. You may recognise Flight of the Bumblebee upon hearing it, but arguably one of his most famous pieces is Scheherazade. If you're not aware, Scheherazade is the narrator of the One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, the stories that also gave us Aladdin, Sinbad and Ali Baba. Chaos, fire and drama - all were brought out in the TSO's rendition. So much so that I may well have been converted to enjoy the piece.
Well, rumour has it, they're having a Movie Music concert sometime in the future - I personally can't wait.