2nd July 14
Bringing together top musicians from Dunottar School, St Bede’s and other schools in the Reigate and Redhill area, this year’s offering was a great treat.
The first half of the concert started with the cello ensemble’s performance of arrangements of Puccini arias by Patsy Gritton, capturing the tragedy and pathos of one aria and then the more serene yet still passionate Nessun’ Dorma. A change of mood ensued, with a jaunty, jazzy original number by Patsy Gritton, who – as pointed out by conductor Loraine Nagioff – was the only living composer represented in the programme. This was followed by an arrangement of an Abba classic song, the harmonies brought out in the performance by the violin ensemble, reminiscent to me of the piquant tone of the tango compositions of Astor Piazzola. We returned to a jazzy idiom with a recorder ensemble’s take on music from The House of Elliott playing over a double bass. There was a luscious and touching rendition of Charles Aznavour’s song She, played by string quartet, whose texture at times reminded me of Borodin. This was followed by Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro played by a chamber group with harpist Eleanor Medcalf – this being a magical and ever so atmospheric performance. Rounding off the first half of the concert was Bellini’s concerto in E flat for oboe and strings, in which the delicacy of the oboe part (played by Chloe Barnes) was paired with the elegance of the strings.
The second half started with another concerto with woodwind solo, in this case Krommer’s concerto for two clarinets. I was struck by the confidence and competence of the two soloists (Claire Dunn and Eleanor Haynes), the precision of the timpanist, and the seeming ability of the soloists to direct themselves, leaving Ms Nagioff to conduct the ensemble. Then there was the overture to Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, which came across as having a grand and aristocratic sound. The penultimate piece was the third movement of Sibelius’ violin concerto. Right from the outset the orchestra was seized by ostinato-like galloping rhythms, reminding me of the relentless gallop of Kazakh songs! These rhythms also formed part of the highly virtuosic music played by soloist Antonina Dembinska-Kenner in a tour de force of a performance. I would also add how in her conducting Ms Nagioff very effectively brought out the different groups of instruments of the orchestra – the galloping rhythm of the strings and important roles for the woodwind and the horns, along with the ever-present timpani – all, I believe, utterly true to the spirit of the composer. The closing item of the concert consisted of the second and third movements of Dvořák’s 9th symphony From the New World. The second movement was expansive – almost Brucknerian – with a sense of vast space, with evocative and lyrical woodwind playing. It is such a familiar piece, yet I heard it as though with fresh ears. Although powerful climaxes were reached, the tone was predominantly contemplative and the orchestra was held with a delicate poise. Then the orchestra launched into what I can only call Dvořák’s equivalent of “the apotheosis of the dance” of Beethoven’s 7th symphony, characterised by a relentless drive – and for me the Dvořák, along with the Ravel and the Sibelius, marked the highlights of an excellent concert.
One might have expected such superb performances from a visiting professional orchestra, but here we had local talent from youngsters musically mature beyond their years. This concert was the product of a coming together of the enormous talents of young musicians from a number of local schools, fashioned into high calibre orchestra and ensembles by the tireless work, enthusiasm and encouragement of Loraine Nagioff. Through the nurturing of their individual and collective talents, these young musicians were able to give performances of challenging works worthy of a professional orchestra.
The award-winning and critically-acclaimed concert pianist Kevin Kenner also attended the event. He said, “I enjoyed the concert last year very much, but this concert was even better. It exceeded my expectations and I enjoyed ALL of it, and ALL the soloists.”
Charles Gordon-Graham BSc MSc MA ADIP DTLLS