Browsing through Friday’s programme (“some of the finest musicians in the West Midlands region” and “the highest standards in non-professional music-making” were among the claims) one could be forgiven for expecting something special from the Eroica Camerata. So it was, if not for quite the reasons intended.
Consisting of students, music graduates and amateur enthusiasts, the young chamber orchestra displayed varying talents. Directed by founder-conductor, Peter Marks, Mozart’s Symphony No. 27 showed attention to detail, with spirited and generally tidy outer movements and an Andantino of lilting grace.
However, wincingly wayward intonation among the first violins and blemishes in other departments prevented the players from achieving their potential, a worrying factor that also blighted their part in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 – while in the Simple Symphony of Britten there was nowhere for the strings to hide.
Fortunately the concerto was rescued by its soloist, Fan Yu, a phenomenally gifted 4th-year student at Birmingham Conservatoire. Elegant phrasing, impeccable dynamics and crisp articulation gave his reading of this popular work a real sense of joie de vivre. And in avoiding any hint of sentimentality he imbued the Adagio with the graceful simplicity of a serenade, here complemented by some lovely flute and clarinet duetting.
The real ear-opener of the evening was Martinu’s Concertino for Piano Trio and String Orchestra, H232, in which Fan Yu was joined by his Hepplewhite Piano Trio colleagues Amy Littlewood and Hetti Price.
This spiky and often exhilaratingly mechanistic example of mid-1930s quirkiness (though the brooding Adagio conveyed darker ideas) rattled along with real zing, brilliantly played by the three soloists and convincingly supported by an Eroica transformed under the empowering baton of Dan Watson. If only everything had been of this quality.