John Wilson is a brilliant conductor and arranger of light music and its pugnacious advocate.
He prefaced the performance of Haydn Wood’s Soliloquy: “If this piece had Delius’s name on the title page we’d hear it a lot more.” He’s right of course: music lovers who’d be sniffy about an orchestral miniature by the composer of Roses of Picardy and would delight in this languorously evocative work if they thought it was a companion piece to In a Summer Garden.
Sullivan’s overture to Iolanthe would not be out of place at the start of a “serious” concert: its fairy music inhabits the world of Mendelssohn and Weber and there are some delightful opportunities for the clarinet.
The eccentric Percy Grainger’s music is always fun and Shepherd’s Hey was a riot with the players clearly enjoying themselves. The central movement of Eric Coates’ suite Springtime was graced by a tender cantabile duet for first violin and cello.
The orchestra delivered Walton’s Crown Imperial with great verve and swagger, almost convincing one that its pomp isn’t utterly hollow. Britten’s Soirées musicales, witty orchestrations of Rossini miniatures, were enjoyable lollipops.
Vaughan Williams’ song cycle On Wenlock Edge, settings of Housman’s poems, received a passionate and immaculately articulated performance by tenor Andrew Staples who was equally effective in the light-hearted Oh, when I was in love with you and the dramatic Bredon Hill where even the moron with the mobile phone switched on couldn’t spoil Staples’ beautifully floated last line “I hear you, I will come.”