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Review: Orchestra of the Swan at Birmingham Town Hall

Orchestra of the Swan introduced us to their partners next season, Lucia Caruso, and her husband, Pedro Henriques da Silva.

Orchestra of the Swan introduced us last Wednesday to their partners next season, Argentinean Lucia Caruso, and her husband, Portuguese-born Pedro Henriques da Silva, and what a happy occasion this was.

Despite a piano setup which lacked a degree of clarity, Caruso delivered a wonderfully witty and loving account of Mozart's comparatively rarely-performed Piano Concerto in C, K415. This has long been an OOTS favourite, with a CD recording by Mark Bebbington, and here it came up fresh and new, Caruso's hands well-balanced and articulate, and delivering some delightful spontaneous interjections.

Conductor David Curtis used Mozart's optional wind instruments in this performance, pragmatically so, as they were anyway onstage for Salieri's uneven Sinfonia in D "Il Giorno Onomastico" and Haydn's totally brilliant Symphony no.92, the "Oxford".

There were well-shaded dynamics in the Salieri. most commendably from trumpets and timpani, and crisp, exhilarating phrasing. A gorgeously Gluckian melody passed from Diane Clark's flute across the orchestra, but there were also soporific passages, and a dreary, quirky finale. One pleasant surprise was the decidedly English nobilmente-sounding Trio of the Scherzo, bassoon-led, despite the programme-note telling us this was for strings alone.

The Haydn was both lithe and graceful, though contrapuntal entries could have been defined with more attack. Strings in the Adagio cantabile were ravishing, an indication of how closely the OOTS players have grown in empathy over years of collaboration.

But the greatest joy was the little encore from Caruso and da Silva, a set of variations on the ancient La Folia bass-line, jointly composed by the couple and featuring Caruso's piano and da Silva's fascinating Portuguese guitar (even its tuning is evocative). Within a handful of minutes we moved through half a millennium of musical history, and a good time was genuinely had by all on both sides of the stage. OOTS, you must record this.

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