From the dramatic opening of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture and the rising scale of the full orchestra, the warmth of the string playing was immediately evident with the solo flute cutting through the orchestra beautifully. The pace then changed, introducing the main theme and conductor, Steve Tanner, achieved good control over the range of dynamics produced. A highlight was the very effective, distant trumpet calls from another part of the cathedral. The main theme was again revisited, with the flute initially and then the full orchestra. Sadly, here, the detail of the furious string playing was a little lost in the lively acoustic of the cathedral.
Lucy Cronin, soprano, a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, who also recently taught at Portsmouth Grammar School, was the soloist for Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne. A collection of traditional French folk songs, sung in Occitan, the local language, were richly scored; a lovely backdrop to Lucy’s beautiful, soaring voice. The third song, in particular, The Shepherdess and the Horse Rider had a playful orchestration but was a little overpowering for a lone voice, however, masking her lower register. Also notable was the virtuoso clarinet cadenza, played with a rich and sonorous tone making full use of the cathedral acoustics to great effect linking seamlessly into the joyous final movement which Lucy delivered with great character and style. Although not sung in English, Lucy’s facial expressions conveyed the stories well.
The second part of the concert featured Brahms, Symphony No 3. Here the orchestra shone with rich chords from the woodwind and brass along with lovely, lilting phrases conveying pastoral thoughts. Clara Schumann was enthralled by the music saying that she was ‘wrapped about by the charm of woods and forests, babbling brooks and the buzzing of insects’. The third movement perhaps has the most familiar of themes, being regularly played on Classic FM. The cathedral acoustic really enhanced the ‘tight’ playing of the orchestra and the excellent intonation of the closing chords were a joy to listen to.