Review: Eroica Camerata, at St Nicolas Church, Kings Norton

The bright-eyed, bushy-tailed hopefulness with which amateur orchestras spring up is touching, but not all of them survive beyond the fledgling stage.

The plucky Eroica Camerata is one which has, now seven years into its existence, and the key to their success is the enthusiasm of the players (many of them unknown to me) matching that of their founder and music director Peter Marks.

Marks has done a wonderful job in assembling this ensemble, motivating them to such willingness, and, incidentally, writing such engaging and shrewd programme-notes.

Saturday’s concert in the bright, comfortable acoustic of Kings Norton’s Parish Church was my first encounter with the Camerata, and it proved totally pleasurable.

Certainly there are issues with intonation (very few amateur orchestras can avoid that), occasionally pinched-sounding woodwind and brass, but the positives easily outweigh those: well-nourished, articulate strings, wind solos full of personality (not least from the principal flute), and a general sense of ease with Marks’ spacious, fluent beat.

Marks still has things to learn, not least how to marshal his audience as well as his players: no-one applauded at the end of an engaging account of Mendelssohn’s ‘Fair Melusine’ Overture, because they hadn’t been signalled so to do.

And perhaps he could allow himself to impose more personality upon his interpretations: Wagner’s ‘Siegfried Idyll’ was efficiently delivered, but could have done with more colour and warmth.

But there is much to applaud in Marks’ enterprise: when did any professional outfit last programme Weber’s quirky First Symphony? Its delivery here, with its plethora of operatic pauses and ‘rallentandi’, was adroitly achieved by Marks and his players.

Now a plea: professional orchestras seem to fight shy of the Swedish early-Romantic Berwald; Peter, why not try one of his fascinating symphonies?