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Review: MusicFest 2016 at St John's Church in Bromsgrove

Bromsgrove’s magnificent St John’s church was the venue for the two day MusicFest 2016, conducted by ever-flamboyant Richard Jenkinson.

Bromsgrove’s magnificent St John’s church was the venue for the two day MusicFest 2016, the final Beethoven feast being given by The Orchestra of St John, conducted by ever-flamboyant Richard Jenkinson.

Church acoustics are invariably tricky with too little rehearsal time in situ to sort out any but major problems. Six cellos were on their mettle to balance with a plethora of upper strings (sixteen in all) but after settling, came through admirably.

Beethoven’s Symphony No 1, with all the charm and exuberance of his 25-year-old genius, was written before the onset of his nightmare deafness. Lovely clean chords and delightful woodwinds highlighted good contrasts which led to filigree silky top strings. Keep steady though, unnecessary over-hectic antics of Richard Jenkinson, the otherwise very reliable conductor, are not always conducive to clear personal thinking one would imagine.

Eleven years on, Beethoven gave the first performance of his Piano Concerto No 4 – conducted by him from the keyboard. Mark Bebbinton was the noble soloist in this unforgiving space where neat semiquaver runs were blurred occasionally as he exchanged phrases with a somewhat sharp-edged, bright orchestra. Horns were not always reliable but thankfully we heard neat rhythms and tenderness from all amongst the drama of this delightful work.

Smiling music followed with Symphony No 2. An irresistible, hummable largetto tune led to lovely arching phrases soaring heavenwards. Special treats with shimmering strings and sparkly woodwinds gave exciting impetus to this innovative work. In spite of deep personal problems one suspects that Beethoven sought refuge in his revolutionary and ground-breaking works, making the musical world sit up and listen.

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