Orchestra of The Swan
Music For Sunflowers
That a day which dawned in such cold and frost could end in such warmth and colour is testament to the redemptive qualities of this music and its fine performance here.
Two giants of the symphony were on offer in this programme: Haydn who did so much to establish it as a form and Beethoven who did more than anyone before (and arguably since) to demonstrate the capacity the symphony has for portraying and developing more than just notes and timbres.
Conductor Daniele Rosina certainly encouraged a steady tempo in the opening symphony but Haydn’s continual false endings and restarts gave the orchestra little chance to settle. Somewhere in this stop-start test of precision, a little crispness was lost.
It was in the Beethoven – the evergreen Pastoral – that the orchestra, and the evening, really took off. A cracking pace was set and there was volume enough to make this a powerful reading given this orchestra’s small size. Special mention should go to the woodwind section who passed the lightest of melodies from player to player almost seamlessly. It was an impressive piece of orchestral teamwork suggesting a fair bit of work had gone into this area of the overall sound. Beethoven’s timeless evocation of the countryside in all its bucolic tranquility and then chaotic storminess came across as clearly as the hall’s slightly dampened acoustic would allow.
And sandwiched between these two slabs of symphony Joe Cutler’s Music for Sunflowers which gives the programme its name. Commissioned by the orchestra some ten years ago this piece – somewhere between a small concerto for viola and a programmatic piece for the instrument – got a strong, well-observed performance from viola player Rose Redgrave.
This is by no means a virtuoso piece, the viola lines are slurred, almost jazzy in tone and the blending of pizzicato rhythms and walking bass lines beneath only add to the lazy summer feeling of the music. But a sweet, sun-soaked stroll in the heat of the day this is not; interrupted lines and scratchy strings perhaps hint at the fact that sunflowers, once summer has passed, rapidly wilt.
Orchestra of the Swan next return to Stratford on December 10 offering an evening of music celebrating the festive season. Visit orchestraoftheswan.org for details of all the orchestra’s forthcoming concerts and full ticket information.