Conductor: Vasily Petrenko
Rossini’s William Tell Overture began with a sombre cello intro which merged into the more elegiac strings. A rumbling drum brought in the full orchestra then slowed to focus on the very capable woodwind section. The theme was developed until a trumpet fanfare brings in the famous frantic section so often played in its own right. The orchestra played with clarity and verve and was capable of in-your-face loudness as well as more gentle moments with great precision.
For Vaughan Williams’ massively popular The Lark Ascending Stephanie Childress appeared all dressed in white. She played the lazy intro with perfect pitch and then went on with soft, sweet and serene panache. There was a good balance between orchestra and soloist as we were taken on a journey flying high as a lark in the summer sky. There was playful accompaniment from the woodwind section and a simply sumptuous solo performance from Childress. She displayed delightful bow work with the gentlest of nuances, both transfixing and transcendent.
Then followed five Schubert songs performed with great skill by Benjamin Appl. The Trout was a cheeky little ditty about a frisky fish. Then there was You are Repose a tender love song for which Appl gave firm and confident projection, clear, powerful and passionate. A Secret was another romantic song with a suitable score for strings backing Appl’s vocals. Then The Feast of All Souls pleaded and longed for peace for the dead. Finally The Elkring began with bombastic brass and was made up of a conversation between father and son with the boy seeing and hearing the mystical Elkring. Appl really belted it out with great control right up to the tragic end.
After the interval came the real highlight of the show with Beethoven’s 6th symphony, the Pastoral. The cheerful placid intro exploded into floods of strings with the catchy refrain captured in the dense but precise sound. The strings really shone with joyful, wondrous splendour with the leitmotiv then passed around the orchestra. The sharp and distinctive sound came under the baton and hand movements of Petrenko in full control of the orchestra, whether soft or load. The piece was given a mesmerising beauty and subtle serenity. There was short sharp stabs of strings and drums to conjure up the tempestuous storm after which there is a calm. Overall the performance lived up to Ludwig van’s brilliance and daring.
Reviewed on 25 January 2020