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Review: Orchestra of St John, St John's Church in Bromsgrove

Conductor Richard Jenkinson and his merry musicians certainly had countless challenges in this evening’s adventurous programme: exciting for all.

Conductor Richard Jenkinson and his merry musicians certainly had countless challenges in this evening’s adventurous programme: exciting for all.

Grieg’s charming Holberg Suite – ‘in o­lden style’, started with vim and vigour as leader Charlotte Moseley set high standards with sparkling solo threads. Certain unison passages were untidy however, as the church’s acoustics threatened to overwhelm, but improved eventually as performers became noticeably more self-assured.

Battle commenced with Poulenc’s unusual concerto for organ, strings and timpani. Balance was interesting to achieve for soloist Jonathan Kingston in this quirky piece, i.e. full range organ growls contrasting with cobweb strings; however one would have wished for more violins and another double bass. Rehearsals cannot have been be straightforward without a church organ every time. Poulenc’s first organ composition (premiered 1938), encompasses a huge variety of emotions includes an expressive viola solo towards the end encircled by organ and timpani. Concentration was palpable, giving full value to this imaginatively unique work.

Further daring drew upon the skills of 16 wind players in Richard Strauss’s Sonatina No 1. The composer’s therapeutic distraction from bouts of depression, this is a work of symphonic proportions started in 1941. Truly a tour-de-force for all concerned, whoops and upward repeated passages needing full concentration but always uniquely Strauss. Shifting key signatures, interweaving of repeated imaginations, tender melodic snatches, lovely solos from first horn and oboe. Everyone had special moments but too often the thick textures somewhat blurred the overall effect. More daring pianissimos and contrasting passages please, otherwise splendid.

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