Review: Central England Ensemble, at Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham
Was enough time devoted to rehearsals by this enthusiastic, but untidy, Central England Ensemble of more than 50 non-professional players, we ask?
With somewhat messy horns beginning Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel overture one hoped that eventually the charm of the music would win the day. Thankfully sweeping strings eventually helped to settle nerves, inattention and tiresome inaccuracies in this lovely familiar music.
Founded in 2001 this orchestra has to be admired for supporting contemporary composers in the Midlands, with Geoff Cummings-Knight’s Piano Concerto in C being featured by a lively performance from soloist Michael Jones.
Wordy programme notes by the composer served to irritate and confuse though, getting in the way of otherwise accessible music.
Four movements presented plenty of opportunities for intermittent orchestral solos accompanied by romantic, confident piano flourishes. The final Tarantella weirdly opted out of an expected and insistent 6/8 rhythm, instead converted into a Prodigal Son scenario. Why Tarantella we ask?
Relief came with dear Dvorak’s 8th symphony in G Major, the performance highlight being some fine flute playing by Sarah Mondon.
Conductor Lee Armstrong should have been more sensitive to balance however, particularly with heavy brass and hammering timpani drowning brave efforts of tunes from strings in crucial areas.
Rating * * *