Review: Orchestra of the Swan, at Spring Sounds Festival, Civic Hall, Stratford-upon-Avon
Heretical perhaps to suggest, but I wonder if the players of the usually excellent Orchestra of the Swan are perhaps overworking themselves?
The opening concert of this year’s Spring Sounds Festival brought all the orchestra’s trademark sensitive nuances under the eloquent baton of David Curtis, but tone-quality was occasionally scrappy, and attack was at times hectic.
This was most apparent in Mozart’s Divertimento K138 (Mozart is the cruellest composer for exposure – and how did a mere stripling come to write this outrageously sensuous music?).
John Ireland’s delicious Downland Suite – remember the wondrous Penelope Wilton in BBC1’s Pearcross Girls in the early 1970s? – was pleasantly delivered, but the highlight of the evening was the world premiere of Roxanna Panufnik’s Indian Summer, the third of her seasons cycle commissioned by the violinist Tasmin Little and OOTS’ Spring Sounds.
Complementing Vivaldi’s Venetian hinterland Four Seasons, which Little directed from the violin in the second half, Panufnik’s cycle takes its inspiration from far and wide, and here the drones and microtonal slides of subcontinental music are much in evidence, summoning a sense of sultry heat.
Little’s violin soared free of the dense textures and insect-activity, and we ended on a long-drawn out resolution of satisfying finality.
Normal OOTS service had been restored by Sunday evening, when the players gave the premiere of the Symphony No.2 by one of their number, violinist Ivor McGregor, efficiently rehearsed by David Curtis in just three hours, and performed with enthusiasm and commitment.
McGregor’s orchestral insider’s ear allows him to judge textures and balances expertly, and though the work is 45 minutes in length, its effect is one of compactness as it moves from drama, through wit and tenderness (some lovely solos for his colleagues in the slow movement) with a hint of tragedy before the rollicking finale.
Applause from orchestra, conductor and audience for this much-loved, self-effacing composer was genuinely heartwarming.