The chemistry between the Chandos Symphony Orchestra and its conductor Michael Lloyd is something unique, as was confirmed by Sunday’s concert celebrating 30 years of the orchestra’s existence and Lloyd’s 20 years at its helm.
Chandos’ policy of only holding weekend rehearsals during the fortnight before each concert can only work with a conductor as dedicated and methodical as Lloyd, though, truth to tell, there were aspects of this particular event where I felt a couple more rehearsals would have settled the players into a more confident sense of delivery.
And nowhere more was this apparent than in an engrossing account of the Enigma Variations, composed right here under the shadow of the hills by Malvern’s favourite son, Edward Elgar.
After a fizzing, exuberant Shostakovich Festive Overture, the introspective Variations dug deep into the technical resources of the players, and I mean no disrespect when I comment that this less than streamlined performance was probably something very close to those Elgar would have heard in the early years of this masterpiece’s existence – British orchestral music had certainly never known anything like it.
None other than the world’s greatest-ever conductor, Gustav Mahler, conducted the Variations in New York just at the time that he was completing his valedictory symphonic song-cycle Das Lied von der Erde.
Though scarcely celebratory in one sense, in another this performance of the Mahler celebrated the sheer expertise and commitment of these amazing part-time players.
The vocal soloists – tenor Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts and mezzo Anne-Marie Owens (what an unforgettable “Abschied” she gave us!) – projected magnificently in this difficult acoustic, but it was the contribution of Lloyd’s orchestra, not least the spine-tingling oboe, which set the seal on this memorable experience.