Kingston Chamber Orchestra

KCO Concert in November 2017

SchubertOverture in D Major, D. 556
BeethovenViolin Concerto (soloist Mathilde Milwidsky)
MozartSymphony no 31 in D major, K. 297/300a ('Paris')
Carlos SurinachSinfonia Chica ('Small Symphony')

Here is a review of the concert by Howard Phillip.

Once again, Andy Meyers' introductions were fun, brief and helpful. He told of the human story of how pieces came to be written as they were. No one else ever does this: they should!

The Schubert Overture showed the orchestra at its best straightaway: balanced, fresh, with all melodic lines emerging just enough to be clear, but never to dominate. The piece was, indeed, very good Schubert, deserving of popularity - and EU availability!

To take on the Beethoven Violin Concerto must be one of the greatest challenges an orchestra can commit to, because we have all heard it played and recorded by all the great orchestras, conductors and soloists. It is one of the greatest pieces of music of any kind every written, and a tour de force for the soloist. Everyone agreed that Mathilde was superb. Her playing was warmly musical and sincere. She managed all of the technically difficult passages with convincing confidence. The complete result was genuinely moving.

We who perform should all sit in the audience sometimes. We fret terribly about wrong notes; but only by being in the audience do you realise that they really do not matter if the flow of the piece is not disturbed - as was the case here.

Here I have one constructive comment to make. The first few minutes of this piece are critical. I recommend even greater precision. Then, when the violin enters on a low note with an up-bow, it is vital for the orchestra to have gone into accompaniment mode so that we all hear every one of her notes; the first two octaves were not quite able to come through. After that, everything was fine: the orchestra and soloist settled into a lovely balanced harmony, everyone relaxed, and the exquisite melodies sang through.

Only by being so close and watching do you realise a certain new appreciation of how it is written. For example, the third movement, in effect, becomes four movements by the change in mood on either side of the cadenza. Now, if Monsieur Clement had had access to Kreisler's writings, his audience would have had all the fireworks they wanted.

After the first monumental movement I wanted to stamp and cheer, but we all stayed perfectly silent - I am relieved to say. I am delighted that, at the end, someone immediately led a standing ovation, which I was glad to see many of us joined in.

I have one other constructive suggestion to make at this point. This church nave is a small, intimate concert space, built of ancient stone which gives a very fine acoustic quality; it can tolerate loud sounds while making the quietest sounds still perfectly clear. So, I recommend trusting it to let a genuine pianissimo be audible to all.

The Mozart symphony is, again, a well known piece. I have a suggestion here. Mozart is not Haydn and not Beethoven: his letter about its composition gives the clue. Mozart was a 22 year old who could be funny and rude in ways that the other two could not. I would suggest playing this piece with a lighter touch, as it were cocking a snoop at the audience, as the letter suggested. Of course, it was all played very well, just a touch heavily and seriously for my taste.

The Surinach was a delight, presumably being unknown to all of the audience. The orchestra must have been tired by now, but it did not show. Instead, it was very refreshing to see players smiling, both in response to Andy's introduction and while playing. Music is supposed to be enjoyable, so it should be enjoyable to play - and it clearly was. And we had a bonus. No matter how elderly or ancient the composer was, the piece was young and refreshing. I saw a genuinely elderly lady across the aisle jigging about in her seat. I wanted to get up and dance with her - but my dancing is Strictly not to be seen in public, but that was the feeling engendered by this ideal encore.

Well done all! This was a very good concert, thoroughly enjoyed by all present - and, I trust, by all performers as well.

-- Howard Phillip, November 2017