Review - Wednesday 21st November 2012 in the Alington Hall, Shrewsbury School
It is always a pleasure to attend concerts by Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra these days, with their ambitious programming and compelling enthusiasm in performance. Their autumn concert at the Alington Hall of Shrewsbury School did not disappoint and there was much to admire in works by Beethoven, Grieg and Shostakovich. The Egmont overture of Beethoven began the evening, a little tentative at first but gaining in confidence as the heavily accented chords led into the more lyrical phrases . where the strings of the orchestra displayed a carefully balanced ensemble.
Viv McLean was the soloist in Grieg’s popular piano concerto. This was an eloquent and thoughtful account, maybe a little over cautious in tempo but displaying a secure technique with some truly magical moments. A strong rapport with the orchestra was always apparent and there was some fine orchestral support , notably from the principal French horn , whose contributions throughout the concert were outstanding. The slow movement , with its ravishing opening on muted strings, produced some exquisitely delicate solo passages , contrasting well with the Norwegian folk-dance rhythms of the finale. This last movement built up to a suitably majestic ending without lapsing into the pomposity of some interpretations.
The powerful 5th symphony of Shostakovich, written to appease the Russian authorities after being accused of promoting an anti-communist spirit in earlier works, presented a real challenge to the orchestra. The mood of gloom and unease was captured in the opening bars, though here, as in other parts of the work, one wished for a few more desks of string players to add weight and richness to the sound. The second movement was suitably sardonic while the long, unbroken melody of the third movement reached a climax of unbearable sadness. The mood was shattered in the final movement by the fierce march-tune and the dramatic intensity of its various transformations.
Congratulations all round, and especially to conductor, John Moore, whose persuasive and encouraging direction brings out the best from this talented orchestra.
© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)