Review: Orchestra Of The Swan, at Birmingham Town Hall
On a grey November afternoon a near-packed Town Hall audience struggled through the Frankfurt Christmas market to enjoy a programme which brought us all back to England in summertime, and how rewarding it was.
The Orchestra of the Swan’s menu was mainly Elgar and Vaughan Williams, but with a tasty appetiser in John Ireland’s Downland Suite.
Originally written for a brass band competition (and one can imagine those sonorities), this lovely music sits so evocatively on string orchestra, and conductor David Curtis, a string-player himself, allowed all its gorgeous details to tell.
As he did in the two masterpieces Elgar penned for the medium, the Serenade for Strings lithe and beautifully-defined, the Introduction and Allegro fizzing in its attack and softly-shaded.
Generally when a conductor is described as “not getting in the way” it means that he realises his ineffectuality and lets the players get on with it; but here that expression is a tribute to Curtis’ assiduous rehearsal and deliberately understated presence in performance.
Tamsin Waley-Cohen was soloist in two Vaughan Williams works for violin and orchestra.
To the rare Concerto Accademico she brought a commanding sense of line, yet also an ability to be sweet and flexible, and in the well-loved Lark Ascending she drew us into the music’s amazing blend of lyricism and elegiacal stillness.