Bits and pieces concerts of well-worn favourites may not be calculated to set a Sunday afternoon alight, but this one certainly did.
A late addition to the Orchestra of the Swan's successful first season as Associate Artists at Birmingham Town Hall, this programme had a summer serenade thread running through it, beginning with the nocturnal perfumes of Mozart's Divertimento K136, the first of his three Salzburg Serenades.
Introducing each offering in his usual friendly, unpatronising way, David Curtis drew a lithe, busy, elegantly shaped account of this irresistible work, and, in the finale's counterpoint, made us aware of the great contrapuntal writing in the Jupiter Symphony at the other end of the composer's life.
A similar textural awareness characterised a clearly-defined reading of Elgar's wonderful little Serenade for Strings, Curtis allowing the material to grow naturally and organically, and never afraid to let the music's wistful fragility speak. A long silence at the end allowed the spell to remain unbroken before eventual grateful applause.
David le Page, OOTS' leader, took over from Curtis both as director and compere for Vivaldi's Summer from The Four Seasons. His introduction (with examples) was engaging and informative (and with a voice and manner such as his he should be on the radio), and his performance of this spectacular concerto was commanding and colourful -- as was the attentive collaboration of his orchestral colleagues.
Then another Serenade, the inspiring one Tchaikovsky wrote to cheer himself up while writing the 1812 Overture. String sound from such a neat, compact body was rich and well-detailed in this splendid acoustic, though not even Curtis and his players could make sense of Tchaikovsky's absurdly extreme dynamics.