Review - Wed 25 May 2016
A large audience at Shrewsbury Abbey was privileged to witness a remarkable performance of Elgar’s violin concerto by young violinist Jennifer Pike, accompanied by the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra under their charismatic conductor John Moore. As soon as she started, Jennifer had the full attention of the audience as her wonderfully rich tone soared across the Abbey.
We were transfixed by her calm authority and impressive technique as she quickly established a rapport with conductor and orchestra. In the second movement she was never dwarfed by the orchestra and this movement in particular demonstrated her ability to build and release musical tension with, seemingly, little effort. The final movement produced a scintillating display of violin pyrotechnics as the soloist coped admirably with the many technical challenges - bravura passage-work, dynamic contrasts, superb bow control and keen, yet unfussy, articulation were all admirable qualities in this performance, which culminated in a mesmerising cadenza. This was playing of the highest quality, and after prolonged and deserved applause she treated us to a Bach Sarabande as an encore.
After 45 minutes of intensive concentration accompanying Jennifer Pike you might have thought that the orchestra would be flagging a little; but they continued the high standard in a performance of the ‘Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis’ by Vaughan Williams for a double string orchestra and solo quartet which was carefully crafted with a good balance between the groups and some excellent solo playing on violin and viola. With the generous Abbey acoustics to sustain the string sound, this was a captivating performance.
Finally we were treated to the Welsh Rhapsody by Edward German, who was a Shropshire lad, born in Whitchurch. In this four movement piece the composer takes four well-known Welsh tunes and develops them cleverly with some imaginative orchestral colours. This was played with great verve by the orchestra, with many highlights, notably the lovely ‘David of the White Rock’ tune on cellos
and oboe, the crisp piccolo playing in the tarantella movement and the final burst of energy in the ‘Men of Harlech’ march.
Congratulations to everyone involved - a memorable evening.
© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)