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Review: Solent Symphony Orchestra concert – “Sketches of Spain”

11/03/2019

The Solent Symphony Orchestra (SSO) concert at Portsmouth Cathedral last Saturday certainly lifted one’s spirits. The concert, entitled Sketches of Spain, was a delight to the ear and transported the audience to warmer climes. The programme titles, to most, appeared unfamiliar but as soon as they were played, instantly recognisable.

The Spanish Overture by Glinka, highlighted the quality of the woodwind section, opening with a warm, resonant clarinet solo. The piece, full of light dance rhythms and constantly changing tempos were certainly a challenge for Steve Tanner, conductor of the SSO.

The Danzon by Marquez, which followed, brought memories of the superb performance by the Simon Bolivar Orchestra at the BBC Proms a few years ago. Full of heady sounds, the music had a wonderful carnival flavour and the cathedral acoustic enabled the loud passages to be felt as well as heard.

The highlight of the evening was the performance by Zoe Barnett of Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre for guitar and orchestra. This piece, featured frequently on Classic FM, was familiar throughout. The orchestra, expertly controlled by Tanner, allowed the guitar to sing through and the final cadenza showed why Zoe was a worthy winner of the Portsmouth Music Festival Concerto Award.

The second half of the concert featured excerpts from the opera, Carmen Suite by Bizet and de Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat. All full of wonderful melodies with lots of opportunities for solo instruments to shine, especially flute and harp in the Bizet. Really tight playing from the orchestra of the various Spanish dance rhythms brought the concert to a joyous conclusion, lifting the spirits of the whole audience.

Brian North

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