Apart from Barber’s Adagio for Strings, it was an all English programme that drew a fairly respectable audience to Wednesday’s matinee at the Town Hall.
The Orchestra of the Swan did the best they could with the antiphonal requirements of Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, placing the second, smaller ensemble in the choir above. But, in practice, this did raise a few balance issues – at the top of the dynamic range, the second ensemble struggled to be heard clearly and, from the circle, it was difficult to distinguish between the two, somewhat nullifying the effect of this repertoire favourite.
Nonetheless, with the orchestral forces reunited, any lingering cobwebs were blown out with a firm start to Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto. Soloist Sarah Williamson gave a technically inspired performance producing a fantastic sound but, for a concert occasion, was emotionally somewhat cold. Interestingly, this suited the first movement, with shyness complementing the concerto’s bashful opening melodies. But it grated in the finale against a main theme that is normally grin-inducingly cheerful.
Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge proved a satisfactory conclusion, however, with the colourful patchwork of ideas, and sonorities never ceasing to amaze.
Rating * * *