Review of March 2017 Concert

A BRILLIANT SOLOIST AND CONDUCTOR TO OPEN THE SEASON

A packed house was assembled at the first SMCO concert for 2017 and this must have inspired the orchestra under the direction for the first time of young conductor Vincent Hardaker.  This young man has an impressive CV which includes an Honours degree in Conducting and has undertaken Masterclasses in conducting with a line-up of internationally distinguished conductors.   His competent control of the orchestra was evident from the very first beat of Beethoven’s Overture “Consecration of the House”.   Brass and wind instruments accompanied by pizzicato strings opened the melodic line which was then taken up by the strings.   Beethoven’s mastery of counterpoint was evident in the work and the conductor’s direction of the orchestra was elegant without being flamboyant.   One sensed that the orchestra were in complete accord with the conductor’s demands and they rose to the occasion magnificently.  With just 4 cellos and two double basses the lower string sections  had to work a little harder than usual to achieve a  balanced sound. The Beethoven overture drew warm applause.

We have heard Simone Roggen play with the St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra on several occasions in the past, so we knew that we were in for a brilliant performance.  She impressed from the start walking on stage dressed in a beautiful long full skirt of a golden brown hue with sparkling glitter and offset by a plain black top.   Playing the well -known Bruch No 1 concerto she commanded the audience’s attention from the first note.  Listeners always look for certain dynamics and contrasting levels of sound from the soloist and orchestra in this work and we were treated to a superb performance by both soloist and conductor. Simone performed on a  300yr old  Italian made violin and the sonorous depth of tone that she was able to coax from the instrument especially in the lower register was impressive.  Her double stopping too was impeccable, and the rapport that she had with the conductor made for an incredibly memorable performance which the audience marked with sustained applause.

To conclude the programme Mozart’s 40th Symphony was a wonderful choice.  Despite its popularity the 40th Symphony is never banal or hackneyed.  It is so cleverly composed that it commands the audience’s rapt attention from start to finish, and conducted with the obvious “feel” for the music that Vincent Hardaker displayed, it swept the audience along with powerful concentration.  From the opening bar the music pulsates along with a relentless tempo and a haunting quality.  The changing harmony is tossed from section to section of the orchestra with contrasting loud and soft passages that keep listeners on their toes.  The conductor gave such clear direction to the players that the audience couldn’t help but glue their eyes on him throughout the performance, and when the symphony came to an end, there was a breathless hush for a significant interval before the well-deserved applause broke out.  We will look forward eagerly to welcome this talented young conductor back in the future.

Once again very informative and well researched programme notes were provided by Lois Westwood.