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