Celebrating the centenary of Elgar?s appointment as Birmingham University?s first professor of music, hundreds of the department?s graduates reunited on Saturday at the Barber Institute on a glorious afternoon.
Reminiscences were shared, including a virtuoso word- picture from John Casken, now professor of music at the University of Manchester, of life as a music student in the late 1960s.
In the evening the general public was admitted to the party, when the action moved to Symphony Hall, with the latest in a select line of Elgar?s successors, Professor Colin Timms, conducting the University Choir and Symphony Orchestra in an all-English concert.
The great man was represented by his Enigma Variations ( not, despite the programme-note, premiered in Birmingham). This received a steady, careful reading, insufficiently characterised as the students coped with the demands of the virtuosic orchestral writing ? some entries were missed ? but with some noble dark tones where appropriate.
More successful was Tippett?s highly untypical Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles, with a sturdy horn carillon, proud trumpets and sizzling strings along the way in this pseudo-medieval piece d?occasion from another centenary composer.
Holst?s wonderfully visionary Hymn of Jesus drew a bravely projected contribution from the choir, with a properly ethereal semichorus, and a willing response from the orchestra to the work?s unique style and textures. Some passages needed to be more majestic, but the ecstatic broken rhythms of the central dance flowed excitingly.
Toe-curlingly jaunty and folky by turns, Vaughan Williams? In Windsor Forest was given with plenty of lilt, and Sarah Ogden was the appealing soprano soloist. And finally, decades of graduates plus audience joined in Land of Hope and Glory, which, just for once, seemed exactly the right thing to do.