REVIEW: Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra honour Bard with night of dynamic music

If Music be the Food of Love, Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra, St. Andrew’s Church, Burgess Hill, November 12

Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra presented their winter concert last Saturday, offering a celebration of music inspired by the works of Shakespeare.

The evening opened with the famous ‘Montagues and Capulets’ music from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. It proved a suitably atmospheric and dramatic start to the concert with some fine playing from the orchestra. The musicians created a wide dynamic range from the powerful brass in the opening section to the delicate woodwind in the quiet calm when Juliet dances at the ball.

We were moved then to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Mendelssohn’s captivating incidental music.

The Overture was rhythmically buoyant and well balanced with some fine ensemble playing from the orchestra. The faster playing did need a little more definition and clarity of articulation but there was a lovely sense of joy achieved here. The Scherzo had a light texture and a nicely lilting one in a bar tempo. The Nocturne was notable for some fine horn playing from principal horn Terry Leese and his section creating a magical mood here. The Wedding March brought a suitably triumphant close to the proceedings.

The first half ended with a Concerto for Double Bass in G by Cimador with soloist Nathanael Thomas-Atkin. Nathanael’s playing had terrific rhythmic vitality and musical direction and he showed some impressive dexterity in the fast sections and fine clarity of articulation. In the slow second movement there was some expressive legato shaping by the soloist accompanied very sensitively by the orchestra. The lively Allegro finale brought an entertaining end to the first half of the concert.

After the interval we were treated to The Merchant of Venice Suite by Sullivan. This was music new to me and to most of the audience too, I suspect.

You could pick out all the hallmarks of Sullivan’s style here from the poignant lyricism to the patter numbers and the rumbustious choruses.

There was excellent ensemble playing and balance throughout and the orchestra caught the contrasting moods and character of the music conveying the inherent wistfulness and joy and it was a real treat to hear it.

The concert ended with a fine performance of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. The range of emotions from the lyrical love theme to the punchy and rhythmic Allegro were captured by the orchestra with a range of tone colours and an exciting build to the climactic points. The tricky speed changes were very well controlled under the skilful and experienced baton of Maestro Michael Stefan Wood and the strings (leader Andrew Biggs) sounded the best I have heard from the orchestra.

So another fine evening of music from our fine local orchestra and I look forward to their evening of John Williams music on May 13, 2017, celebrating the composer’s 85th birthday.

Most definitely a date for the diary.

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