All posts by Rebecca Stichbury

Waikato Times Review of St John Passion, Hamilton

What:   St John Passion
Who:   Hamilton Civic Choir with St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra
When:   Saturday, September 15, 2018
Where:   St Peter’s Cathedral
Conductor:   Timothy Carpenter
Composer:   JS Bach

 The afternoon was warm. The conversation was of netball and children and the spring weather. The orchestra was tuned and the choir in situ, without rostra, in the sound shell sanctuary of St Peter’s Cathedral. Conductor Carpenter raised his baton. Slow silence, expectant, but not overdoing it. The baton was still. So were we. The baton moved and so did the orchestra, and an exquisitely balanced, sensitively tuned dynamically perfect sound emerged, lasted a few bars with a wee crescendo, the choir came in, and the world lit up.

Not just with spring sunlight, but a choral chord which was, like the orchestra’s introduction, perfectly pitched and balanced. The dynamic blast, however, from that first choral chord introducing the narrative of the last days of Christ, heralded nearly two unbroken hours of some of the best choral singing with the most enriching orchestral interpretation to have been heard in this most appropriate venue.

It was written nearly 300 years go and somehow, miraculously, Carpenter and his crews recreated that original sensibility and made it accessible to this 21st-century audience.  In part it was through the immaculately cast soloists, from Lachlan Craig’s Evangelist to Ian Campbell’s Pilate and Joel Amosa’s superabundant bass as Christ. Partly it was the orchestral virtuosity and responsiveness to the moment, even enhancing Jayne Tankersley’s incomparable soprano.

There is a particular nod to James Bush’s sublime cello, including his lead into Sarah Court’s exquisite Es ist vollbracht , and Philip Smith’s consummate continuo marathon. Partly it was a matchless Civic Choir, at last paying attention to coach and so producing the pre-eminent performance.

The sopranos were tonally immaculate, and the blend with the altos would have turned 18th-century heads. From the opening chords to the majestic final chorale, Ach Herr, lass dein lieb Engelein, this was uniquely beautiful Bach. The audience thanks you.

Sam Edwards, Waikato Times

Review of September 2018 Concert

BACH AT ITS BEST

The September concert of the St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra presented a non-stop performance of Bach’s St John Passion sung in the original German.  The Hamilton Civic Choir were joined by an impressive line-up of soloists – soprano Jayne Tankersley, mezzo Sarah Court, tenor Lachlan Craig, baritone Ian Campbell and bass-baritone Joel Amosa.  Cellist James Bush gave some wonderful supporting obligati for several solos.  The management thoughtfully provided the English text so that audience members were able to follow the sung German virtually “word for word”.

Many classical music lovers regard J.S. Bach as the “Father of music” and he commands universal respect.  He has total respect for melody, harmony and counterpoint, and you will never hear a “bum-note” in any of his works.  The St John Passion was composed for a Good Friday Service in his Lutheran Church in Leipzig in 1724.   It follows the events in Chapters 18 and 19 of John’s gospel, with the Evangelist mainly narrating the story, and Jesus and Pilate responding.

The forty strong Hamilton Civic Choir formed a half circle completely enclosing the orchestra, with the females on the left and the males on the right.  This positioning enabled all choristers to have a clear view of conductor Timothy Carpenter who gave very polished direction from the podium.   The Passion is a well-balanced work with recitatives interspersed with choruses and chorales while delivering a coherent narrative.  Mezzo Sarah Court sang the first solo aria with a delicate obligato provided by two oboes and a bassoon alone.   This was quickly followed by soprano Jayne Tankersley whose aria was very well supported by cello obligato played by James Bush.  He did the same for a later mezzo aria sung by Sarah Court.   The Evangelist delivered all of his recitatives from the pulpit high above all else and we heard every word.  It was a joy to hear Joel Amosa, winner of the recent Lexus Song Quest.  His bass baritone voice had the resonant cutting edge to carry over the orchestra, even when singing pianissimo.

The whole work was presented without any interval, and rightly so.  It would have been impossible to make a break in this work without losing the thread and drama, and general impact.   In the second half of the program, the tension built and maintained right to the final chorale.   All in all, we heard some superb singing by all of the soloists, and indeed the Choir itself and very fine playing by the orchestra.  The capacity audience showed their appreciation with prolonged applause.

The final concert in the 2018 series will be on Sunday 18th November, and will feature conductor, Tianyi Lu, and oboe soloist Bede Hanley.   The program will include Douglas Lilburn’s Drysdale Overture, Vaughan Williams’ Oboe Concerto, and Brahms’ 3rd Symphony.

Robert O’Hara

Review of August 2018 Concert

WINING COMBINATION OF BARTOK AND BEETHOVEN

The opening work of St Matthews Chamber Orchestra concert on Sunday 9th August was, “On hearing the shining cuckoo”, by Auckland composer, Anthony Young, a contemporary work in six movements. We are all familiar with the shining cuckoo’s calls heralding Spring :– coo-ee, coo-ee followed by tsss-eew, tsss-eew.  This distinctive call was mimicked from this bird that lays its eggs in a grey warbler’s nest and leaves the grey warbler to hatch and raise the cuckoo chicks.  Young’s work  was inspired by Frederick Delius’ work “On hearing the first cuckoo in Spring.” And he uses a similar musical structure to paint his melodic structure.  The orchestra is to be commended for commissioning and performing new works like this for the audience first hearing.

Bartok’s 3rd Piano Concerto gave the solo pianist the opportunity to perform on the brand new Shuguru-Kawai  grand piano that has just been purchased by  St Matthews Church.   It was a brilliant performance by David Guerin, of a very showy piano work.  Bartok composed this concerto  especially for his concert pianist wife, Ditta.  It has many demands, and Guerin’s performance highlighted the contrasts and sheer brilliance of the music, which was well supported by the colourful orchestration.   In three contrasting movements, the final Allegro Vivace was very demanding of both the soloist and orchestra, but was performed with great panache and rewarded with a rousing reception from an appreciative audience.

Beethoven’s 8th Symphony is not as well known or as widely performed as some of his other Symphonies.  The first movement , Allegro Vivace con brio is bright tuneful and full of hope and Michael Joel drew forth a spirited performance of this movement.  The second and third movements are light-hearted and give plenty of scope for the woodwind section to shine. The work of principal clarinet, Janine Stenbo is worthy of special mention, her playing being exceptionally clear and standing out as the composer intended.  The final movement was spirited and featured contrasting dynamics that the conductor drew forth to perfection.   This work was very well received and enthusiastically applauded.

Lois Westwood’s well-researched program notes added to the enjoyment of the concert.

The next concert is on Sunday 16th September will feature the Hamilton Civic Choir under conductor, Tim Carpenter, performing  Bach’s St John Passion.

Robert  O’Hara

Review of Eight Seasons Concert July 2018

Brilliantly Virtuosic – Andrew Beer

St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra has a great reputation for attracting wonderful soloists but it was a really stellar cast of soloist and accompanying continuo players who performed at their most recent Eight Seasons concert.  The concert was much anticipated – probably the first which saw both Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Piazolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires performed together in New Zealand.

Andrew Beer, the Concertmaster of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, was brilliantly virtuosic in both the Vivaldi – with all its seasonal references – cracking ice, dogs barking, drunken revellery, spring warmth and the languor of an Italian summer afternoon, and in Piazolla’s Argentinian seasons – cicadas, tangos and reflections on Vivaldi’s music.  His expressive and passionate playing seemed to switch effortlessly between eighteenth century Italy and twentieth century South America.

What a master-stroke it was to alternate the two compositions season by season.

Ashley Brown, playing the demanding cello obligatos, and Peter Watts on harpsichord added greatly to the performance and were most accomplished collaborators, and Michael Joel demonstrated his ability to make music the greatest fun while maintaining great professionalism in his conducting.  The orchestra, made up of a very select band of strings led by Tessa Petersen, seemed as enthusiastic and energetic as the team of soloists.  Crisp, punctuated string lines and luscious south American rhythms had the audience entranced.  A very appreciative audience accorded the players a standing ovation – well deserved by all.

Review of June 2018 Concert

SMCO in Brilliant Form

Although performed last the Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major of Mozart was
undoubtedly the highlight of the recent concert of St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra.
The two soloists, Monique Lapins and Gillian Ansell of the NZ String Quartet
brought musicianship of the highest quality. From the opening introduction it was
apparent the orchestra was going to produce its finest playing as a worthy partner.
The entry of the soloists, high above the orchestra, followed by a descending phrase
are two of the most magical moments in all music – and likely to cause the hairs on
the necks of the listeners to rise in ecstacy. Lapins’ and Ansell’s blending of tone and
impeccable intonation was splendid indeed. Ansell produced a sonority and
expressive playing which was mirrored in Lapins’ brilliant and rich tone with
authorative dynamics. The instruments wove a question and answer pattern of
supreme beauty. The poignant and introspective slow movement was truly beautiful
with sensitive playing from the orchestra, ever watchful of the conductor and soloists.
Indeed, the rapport between conductor, soloists and orchestra was apparent
throughout. Of particular note was the polished playing of the horns.

The orchestra was led with panache by John Thomson and conducted by Justus
Rozemond. His clear beat and obvious accord with the orchestra demonstrated a
clearly bond with them. His fluid conducting style was perfect for the dance-like
works in the programme.

Opening the concert was Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 also in E flat major. The warm
string tone and in the first movement the conversations between the woodwind
ensemble and then horn and strings were impressive. The Menuetto was a lilting
dance with cellos and basses giving the country dance real feeling. Clear phrasing
and variations of tempo were accomplished well. The symphony ended with a brisk
Allegro with plenty of work for all sections and a happy warmth.

Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite is based on Pergolesi’s music of the 18th century.
Originally written as a full ballet, the movements are all dances. The suite opened
with a broad-toned Sinfonia introducing the cheeky Pulcinella. The woodwinds
handled the tricky ensemble work with their usual skill. Stravinsky used a solo violin
and string quartet in several movements. There were difficult rhythms well handled
and blending of themes between woodwinds and strings, and some brilliant tonguing
from the trumpet. The theme of the original Sinfonia appeared again in the Finale
with the trumpet re-introducing Pulcinella.

Congratulations to SMCO and its soloists. A really glowing concert and warmly
appreciated by the near-capacity audience. Review by Rogan Falla

Review of May 2018 Concert

UNIVERSITY  STUDENTS  DELIGHT  AUDIENCE

On a fine Sunday afternoon a near capacity audience gathered at St Matthews in the City for the second concert in the 2018 program.    It was a markedly different  program from their usual offering in that it featured  three instumental  soloists and seven young singers from the Auckland University School of Music.  The music presented ranged from Bach to Beardsworth (a talented young New Zealand composer).

The opening item was a 9 minute  long composition titled  ”Prelude in D minor” by the  young New Zealand composer, Matthew Beardsworth.  To quote the composer himself, “I wrote Prelude to challenge myself to write in a style other than what I usually compose in.  Instead of writing in a rigid and structured form, I started with the motif and allowed the piece to organically develop from there in seamless flow.”  Opening with the viola and cello sections, the music swept from one section of the orchestra to another in flowing style.  There was no dissonance, and meagre melodic line, but there was plenty of harmony and this demonstrated the composer’s skilful orchestration.    The composer was welcomed to the podium by the conductor to acknowledge the applause from an appreciative audience.

Schubert’s  Symphony no 5  was next, and this provided  37 minutes of graceful melody with clever development and beautiful harmony.  Conductor José Aparicio drew a superb performance of this popular work from the orchestra.  His conducting style was economic in gesture, but he gave positive direction where he wanted to give extra emphasis to the music.  This symphony is so well known and widely popular but this performance was an excellent reading and was very well received.

Following the interval two young flautists, Zoe Stenhouse-Burgess and Yunesang Yune were joined by violinist Danny Kim to present with a reduced orchestra a performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto number 4 in G Major. In three movements – Allegro, Andante, Presto – the conductor kept the orchestra volume at an acceptably low level so that the virtuosity of the three soloists could be heard to perfection.  They  performed brilliantly in the first movement, and then in the slower second movement  the minuet  tempo allowed them to accentuate the echo efffects  beautifully.   All three solosists were able to demonstrate their virtuosic skills in the final movement, and their performance was much appreciated.

We were then treated to a succession of opera arias by seven very talented young singers, most of whom are aiming to carve out a career as professional singers.  First up was Ella Ewen who gave a very sensitive performance of Handel’s “Lascia ch’io pianga” from the opera “Rinaldo”.   Tenor Nathan Hauraki gave us a fine performance of Monostatos’ aria from The Magic Flute.  His ringing tenor voice gave urgency to the Moor’s plea in his unrequited love for Pamina. In the next item, Ella Ewen was joined by Carla Camilleri in the “Letter” duet “Sull’aria” from The Marriage of Figaro.  Countess Almaviva is dictating a letter to her maid in which they plan to trap the Count  and expose his infidelity.    The two singers combined well and their performance was much appreciated.   The serenade, “Dei Vieni alla Finestra” from Don Giovanni was given a rousing performance by baritone, Alex Matangi.    The Pamina/Papageno duet from The Magic Flute was given a very fine reading by baritone Arthur Adams-Close and soprano Ella Ewen.   In the next item, from Donizetti’s opera “Daughter of the Regiment”, soprano Clare Hood dressed in a flame red frock, gave a saucy performance of the regimental song and demonstrated her command of the coloratura register.      In the nexy item,  Leila Alexander in a flared white frock gave a splendid performance of  “Meine Lippen” from Franz Lehar’s opera Giuditta, and also demonstrated her dancing ability.    In a flamboyant finale, all singers came on stage together with champagne bottles and glasses and gave a rousing performance of the Champagne Chorus from the Johann Strauss opera, Die Fledermaus.    They were given a noisy farewell from a warmly appreciative audience.

The usual well researched notes by Lois Westwood were of great assistance to the audience in their appreciation of the program.

Robert O’Hara.

Review of March 2018 Concert

A VIRTUOSO CELLO PERFORMANCE

St Matthew’s Church was well filled for the opening concert of the Chamber Orchestra, and the audience was treated to a wonderfully well balanced program.

First up was Mozart’s Ballet Music for the opera Idomeneo.  This gave the composer the opportunity to display his melodic invention in showy dance rhythms.   His Chaconne, a stately dance in triple time, featured woodwind and the brass section, followed by a Passepied, also in quick triple time leading on to an elegant gavotte.  The composer’s neat and tidy melodic invention was well presented and led on to a brilliant conclusion.

It is believed that Haydn wrote his Cello Concerto No 1 between 1761 and 1765 for Joseph F. Weigl, the principal cello of Nicholas Esterhazy’s orchestra.  It then disappeared from the repertoire for over 200 years until it was discovered in 1961 in the Prague National Library by musicologist, Oldrich Pulkert.  Its authenticity has been questioned but it is now generally accepted that it is by Haydn.   It is a virtuoso work that makes stringent demands on the soloist, and with Ashley Brown on the podium we were treated to a brilliant performance.   One of New Zealand’s leading cellists, his fingering was a joy to behold and the rich honeyed tones that he was able to coax from his 260 year old cello soared over the orchestra with total ease. He gave us an exceptional reading of this wonderful concerto and at the conclusion he was given deservedly rapturous applause by the audience.

The final work was Beethoven’s Symphony No 2 in D Major.  This work was completed in 1802 while the composer was living in Heiligenstadt.  Oddly enough this bright and cheerful work gives no hint of the anguish that the composer was suffering as a result of his incipient deafness.  In the traditional four movements, it opens slowly with several melodic themes which are developed and heard later in the work.  The symphony is bright and cheerful throughout, although it was not immediately accepted at its premiere in Vienna in 1803.  The Larghetto movement begins with a meltingly beautiful melody not unlike Schubert might have written.  To this is added a second and third subject to bring the whole to a powerful climax before returning to the first theme.  The Scherzo is in true comic fashion bright and breezy.  The final movement, Allegro molto continues in light hearted fashion with the woodwinds, especially the bassoon, floating above the scurrying strings.  A pizzicato passage in the coda offers a sense of mystery before the symphony is brought to a happy conclusion.  This work was a happy choice to conclude what proved to be a well-balanced program.

The next St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra concert on May 20th will feature Hawke’s Bay conductor, Jose Aparicio and Auckland University Students, the Bach Brandenburg Concerto no. 4, various Arias and Schubert’s Symphony No 5.

Robert O’Hara

Review of November 2017 Concert

MAINLY CHORAL PROGRAM DELIGHTS AUDIENCE

St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra’s final program of the year featured the Auckland Youth Choir with various soloists and Dr Te Oti Rakena, (Baritone), conducted by David Squire. The first item was a group of five spirituals from Sir Michael Tippett’s “Child of our time” Oratorio. These were beautifully performed by the Auckland Youth Choir with young soloists Emily Young, (Soprano), Johanna Quinn (Alto), Sid Chand (Tenor) and Alex Matangi (Baritone). These songs were sung with great conviction by the choir, with sensitive direction by the conductor.

In 1938 the assassination of a German diplomat by a young Jewish refugee prompted the Nazi party to react in the form of a violent pogrom against the Jewish population. Tippett was moved to include spirituals

in his oratorio “Child of our time” as they had universal acceptance as representative of the oppressed everywhere. Composed in 1941 this oratorio is a deeply affecting work that has cemented Tippett’s popularity worldwide as an oratorio composer.

The second item was Ralph Vaughan-Williams’ Five mystical songs, which featured Baritone Dr Te Oti Rakena as soloist backed by the Choir. The songs were Easter; I got me Flowers; Love bade me welcome; The call; and Antiphon. In every song Rakena’s diction was immaculate, and he enunciated each word he sang with total clarity.  His singing was a joy to hear, and as the co-ordinator of vocal studies at Auckland University he gave a pure demonstration of the art of singing, with sublime backing from the choir, who alone sang the final hymn of praise, Antiphon. This bracket of songs was particularly effective with the male voices ranged behind the orchestra on the south side, while the female voices were ranged behind the orchestra on the north side, with the soloist centre stage.               Audience appreciation was demonstrated by their rapturous applause.

The final item was Saint-Saens’ Organ symphony in C Minor. In this work conductor David Squire gave a wonderful reading of the score which featured both Organ played by Paul Chan, and Piano played by violinists Penny Christiansen and Georgina Jarvis. The symphony is divided into two distinct movements, which are in turn divided into two sections.     The energetic strings ushered in the in the second movement which featured some brilliant scale passages from the piano, and led on to the transformation of themes.

The orchestration gave virtually all of the sections of the orchestra the chance to shine and show their special tonal quality. The conductor drew this out skilfully and when the loud organ chord ushered in the final Maestoso movement, the orchestra swept on majestically to thrilling finish, which brought the house down with applause.

To mark the end of a very successful season, the audience were invited to join in with Coopers Creek wine, cheese and nibbles provided. This was much appreciated and most of the audience took up the invitation.

The 2018 season was announced and the program features an extra concert on top of the usual six. The first concert on the 11th March, 2018 will feature Cello soloist Ashley Brown, with conductor David Kay.

Robert O’Hara

Review of September 2017 Concert

NEW MUSIC APPEALS.

The compositions selected for this concert could not have been more contrasting, and the orchestra takes something of a gamble when it selects music that its audience has never before experienced.  Graeme Koehne (pronounced “kerner”) is one of Australia’s foremost composers, and has an impressive academic record.  He is currently Director of Composition at the Elder Conservatorium, Adelaide University, as well as chairing the Music Board of the Australia Council.  He has been particularly successful as a Ballet Music composer and has been commissioned to write Ballet Music for the Australia Ballet, the Queensland Ballet and the West Australian Ballet.   Lois Westwood’s informative notes describe Koehne’s music as ‘cheerful, melodic, rhythmic and accessible and has been described as “something like Copland in populist mode” ‘. This description is most apt, and I am sure that many in the audience were agreeably surprised to find how much they enjoyed hearing this music for the first time.   It opens with a somewhat enigmatic clarinet solo which then floats into some strings with effective use being made of pizzicato passages.   The orchestration varied from quite soft strings, at one stage we heard a quintet of the leaders of the five string sections playing a tuneful waltz, and for some 25 minutes we were thoroughly entertained by some very attractive music that would have been a delight for ballet dancers to perform to.  It was given a warm reception by the audience.   We probably have Conductor David Sharp to thank for the introduction of this composer’s music, and he deserves our thanks accordingly.

Pianist Sarah Watkins is well known throughout New Zealand both as a soloist, a very competent accompanist and also as a founding member of the celebrated New Zealand Trio.  Her choice of Concerto was Anthony Ritchie’s Number 3.  Ritchie’s music covers the whole spectrum of the classical repertoire from orchestral works to chamber music, Operas, Oratorios, song and choral music, and he has had more than 250 works published during his working life.    He studied in Hungary the music of Bela Bartok which became his PHD thesis subject.   He is currently the Associate Professor of Music at Otago University.  His Piano Concerto No 3 is a lively work which starts with a long solo piano introduction, which is taken up by the orchestra with some colourful effects of pizzicato strings.  In the following slow movement some dissonances suggest a yearning for something unattainable, and there is both whimsy and humour in the music that follows.  The piano soloist showed consummate skill in every aspect of her playing, and this highlighted the drama of the music.   The final passage demonstrated a wonderful rapport between soloist, conductor and the whole orchestra, and led up to a spectacular finale.

Schubert’s ”Unfinished” Symphony has never lost its universal appeal, and its inclusion in today’s program was warmly welcomed.   Although the work is so well known, it does not seem that there is universal agreement on the tempo at which it is to be played.  One has only to check on Youtube to realise that the length of time varies from Georg Solti’s 31 minutes, to Leonard Bernstein’s 26 minutes and Von Karajan’s 24 minutes. This is a wide disparity in performance time, but oddly enough when listening to the performances, it does not seem to matter.  Schubert’s music reigns supreme and aloof from all argument about tempi.   David Sharp’s reading of the work was exemplary and he took it through in 27 minutes.  The orchestration of the work features the lower strings to start with and then moves to the woodwind with clarinet and oboe playing a poignant melody.   All sections had their chance to shine alone and the unadulterated happiness in the music manifested itself very effectively.  It was much appreciated by the audience.

The next concert on Sunday 19th November will feature the Auckland Youth Choir, Baritone Te Oti Rakena, and conductor David Squire.

Robert O’Hara

Review of August 2017 Concert

MASTERLY CELLO CONCERTO PERFORMANCE

The St Matthews Church was well filled for the August concert, and the audience were served up with a very satisfying feast of music.  Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis was the first item. Tallis is believed to have been born around 1505 and is famous as the “father” of English choral music.  He held a post at Canterbury Cathedral and later became the Gentleman in Residence at the Chapel Royal.  He lived to the age of 80, dying in 1585. Ralph Vaughan Williams conducted the first performance of his “Fantasia” on a Tallis Theme in 1910 at the Gloucester Cathedral.   His composition is unique in that it is written for three separate groups, a full string orchestra, a smaller orchestra, and a string quartet, all placed apart from each other.  The SMCO did not attempt this layout but the performance that they presented was immensely satisfying.  The orchestral parts are so cleverly written that one is not aware of how spread the notes are in the presentation of the theme and variations. This performance had such a mesmerising influence on the audience that at the finish there was a stunned silence for several seconds before the audience gathered to show its appreciation.

Hungarian composer, Erno Dohnanyi flowered early as a child prodigy and grew up to become a famous pianist, conductor and composer.  Although he used folk music in his compositions, he was never considered a Nationalist composer in the way that Bartok and Kodaly were.  Living in Germany he took the name Ernst von Dohnanyi, the “von” indicating “nobility”.  After World War 2 he suffered somewhat unjustly the accusation that he was a “Nazi Sympathiser”, but in fact he had helped many Jewish musicians to avoid Nazi persecution.  He later emigrated to the USA and for ten years he lectured at Florida University.  He died there in 1960 and was buried at Tallahassee.  As a child he was used to hearing his father play the cello, and so he was motivated to write the Konzertstuck in 1904.   This is a one-movement work of some 25 minutes, and it calls for a very capable cellist to master its technical difficulties.   Eliah Sakakushev-von Bismarck’s virtuoso performance captured the audience and he was given clamorous applause.   Dohnanyi’s composition was wall-to-wall melody from start to finish and was a worthy inclusion in the programme.

Beethoven’s 5th Symphony must surely be the most well-known piece of classical music ever written.  Its prophetic four note introduction is repeated again and again throughout the work.  It took the composer the best part of four years to fine tune it until he was fully satisfied with the end result.  During the Second World War it was known as the “Victory Symphony” for several reasons.   “V” is the Roman numeral for 5, and the dit-dit-dit-dah rhythm is the Morse code signal for the letter V.   The BBC broadcasts to Europe during the war began with the same rhythm played on the drums.   Michael Joel’s handling of this work was exemplary and it is by no means an easy work to conduct.   The orchestra too played with verve and vigour and the final result was most satisfying.  The final movement provided a wonderful crescendo with the Trombones, contra-bassoon and piccolo joining the rest of the orchestra to drive the work to a very powerful conclusion.

Robert O’Hara