Review - Sat 20 June 2015
Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra presented its final concert of the current season at Shrewsbury Abbey and enhanced its growing reputation with a bold performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony, surely one of the most difficult works in the orchestral repertoire. A conductor of this piece has the onerous task not only of controlling a large body of players, but also a large chorus and four solo singers in the final movement. From the start ,the orchestra played with great assurance , biting into the dramatic dotted rhythms with real purpose - all sections made telling contributions but special praise must be given to the woodwind ( whose articulation and ensemble were good throughout ) and the timpanist , whose control of the work’s rhythmic diversity was most impressive. The second movement was taken at breakneck speed , just avoiding disaster on several occasions but played with admirable spirit, with any slips covered by the generous Abbey acoustic. The slow movement was played beautifully and with great sensitivity to Beethoven’s dynamics instructions .
……. and then the final movement, the popular ‘Ode to Joy’ . Baritone soloist Jonathan May provided a splendid opening outburst , to be well supported by soprano Naomi Harvey, contralto Laura Innes and tenor Jamie Macdougall. The members of Shrewsbury School Community Choir played their part in bringing the symphony to its remarkable climax; no doubt some of the sopranos will be nursing sore throats after singing so many sustained top ‘A’s.
The evening had begun with a confident performance of the Tragic Overture by Brahms, which was played with commendable accuracy and energy by this hard-working orchestra. As the season closes, special praise must be given to leader Paul Bramwell, whose calm authority is always evident, and to conductor John Moore for his skilful direction and the self-belief he instils into his players to produce concerts such as this.
© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)