SCO Winds and Brass (example of a review)

16 Aug 2012 in Community Reviews, Highland, Music

Please note the following is an example of a review.

THE annual separation of the string and wind sections of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra has become a well-established part of the summer music calendar in the Highlands.

WHILE the Strings took themselves off to Killin, Fortrose and Ullapool, the Winds and Brass visited Banchory and Birnam on either side of this concert in Boat of Garten. The Community Hall in the village, completed in 2007, has an acoustic ideally suited to their instruments, although one that is equally unforgiving of any lapses in intonation or ensemble precision.

Needless to say, no such flaws were revealed to the full house in the course of a well-conceived programme which gave opportunities to showcase not only the individual virtuosity of the players, but also the chamber music-like cooperation of their (conductor-less) ensemble playing.

The music of Eastern Europe was paramount, with two pieces from eminent Russian composers arranged by trumpeter Peter Franks, and another by a less well-known Hungarian that was the surprise delight of the evening. Mozart’s Serenade, K388, in the unusual key of C minor, completed the programme.

They opened with four dances for Prokofiev’s music for Cinderella, colourfully arranged for the full fourteen-strong group, with the addition of percussionist Kate Openshaw. The four chosen segments – ‘Introduction’, the humorous gallumphing of ‘Dancing Lesson’, the elegant ‘Spring & Summer Fairies’ and the boistrous ‘Pas de Shawl’, provided a vibrant start to the evening.

Mozart’s Serenade employed smaller forces, but made its customary impact. The SCO’s Mozart playing is generally of the highest quality, and this piece – with its unusually sombre undercurrent for a Serenade – was no exception.

Hungarian composer Mátyás Seiber made his main reputation as a composer of film music and a distinguished teacher, but if the Serenade for Six Wind Instruments is typical of his concert output, then his work deserves to be heard more often. Written for a competition in 1926, it drew on the fascination with indigenous folk music then active in Hungary.

The score called for paired clarinets, horns and bassoons, and Seiber’s impressive handling of the melodic and rhythmic possibilities of the material also drew out some fascinating musical timbres and textures from the instruments.

The full ensemble returned to the stage for the final work, the Polovtsian Dances from Borodin’s Prince Igor, again arranged by Franks, and if anything even more energetic and colourful than the Prokofiev excerpts. They returned to that work for an encore in the shape of a fifth excerpt, Cinderella’s slightly melancholic waltz prior to her going to the ball.

Review by K Mathieson