Review - Wednesday 2nd April 2014 in Shrewsbury Abbey
‘From Russia with Love’
For their Spring concert at Shrewsbury Abbey, the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra presented a programme of 19th century Russian music. It is no hardship these days to attend this orchestra’s concerts since it has acquired a confidence and self-belief under the guidance of conductor John Moore which allows an audience to appreciate the music for its own sake and forget that it is a totally amateur organisation. The concert began with Borodin’s overture ‘Prince Igor’ which straight away revealed a well-balanced ensemble and a crispness of attack which set the standard for the whole evening. Then came ‘In the Steppes of Central Asia’, again by Borodin, a work which celebrates the expansion of the Russian empire during the reign of Alexander II. The haunting themes were lovingly presented throughout the orchestra, but special mention must be made of the contributions of the Principal French Horn and Clarinet players, both of whom were on top form the whole concert. Mussorgsky’s ‘Night on a Bare Mountain’ concluded the first half, which allowed the orchestra to fill the Abbey with strident fanfare-like figures and incisive rhythms.
The main work was Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony of 1888. This showed the orchestra at its best, from the opening theme of the first movement, played threateningly by the clarinets, to the mighty statement of the same theme at the end of the last movement in a triumphant major key. One of the real highlights was the playing of the slow 2nd movement, with its stream of soaring melodies. The wonderful horn theme which opens the movement was exquisitely played by principal horn player Andrienna Straw, setting the mood for the strings to caress the main tune with great sensitivity. After the delicate waltz of the third movement, came the imposing finale - surely one of Tchaikovsky’s most joyous and energetic movements. The orchestra played this movement with great relish, capturing the flavour and dance rhythms of Russian folk-music perfectly.
Orchestra and conductor are to be congratulated on another most successful concert.
© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)