Review: Portsmouth Light Orchestra’s World Tour

Stuart Reed writes:

As sometimes happens, Portsmouth Light Orchestra’s last full rehearsal left some players apprehensive about their forthcoming Autumn Concert. There were some tricky corners in many of the numbers. The bewildering geography of one piece with multiple repeats, back-to-signs and a coda gave cause for concern. At first glance, the programme looked like a hotchpotch of pieces from all over the place. In general, the playing at rehearsal was a bit lackadaisical; somewhat lacklustre.

However, the actual performance on Saturday 6th October told a very different story. This time the ensemble was really up for it. The sound in the Admiral Lord Nelson School’s cavernous hall was big and confident. Alan Ham and Ian Rogers on double basses and Bob Newnham on timpani helped pump up the volume.

The chosen music had a proper theme to it. Ed McDermott, the conductor, had cunningly brought together numbers from around the globe; a musical trip around the world. It worked.

Some pieces, like the Argentine Tango by Isaac Manuel Francisco Albeniz y Pascal, were pretty close to the real thing even though he was actually Spanish. Russian Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade was chock-full of Eastern promise. The Three Spanish Dances by the German pianist of Polish-Jewish descent, Moritz Moszkowski, were so authentic you could almost feel the glow of sunshine and Rioja.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, the Americans who wrote for musical theatre, took the audience to Siam with The King and I and even further East with South Pacific. And Italian opera music composer Gioachino Rossini took the listeners back to Spain with The Barber of Seville.

Despite its scary repeats, Stories from the Vienna Forest by Austrian waltz supremo Johann Strauss came across very well indeed. Clare Nicolas on flute executed a fine cadenza which opens the piece.

It also contained a lovely violin duet. The beautiful synchronised playing by the Orchestra’s Leader Jennie Reeves and First Desk violinist Gabriella Vrbikova was as sweet and heady as apfel schnapps on a winter’s night.

Three other items in the concert were also totally genuine in origin.

Ralph Vaughan William’s English Folk Song Suite was Southern England through and through with its catchy tune and clod-hopper march. Great stuff to open both halves of the programme.

The orchestra also played Vltava by Bedrich Smetana, the Czech composer. It’s a tone poem about the Czech national river. The flute section starts it off as a tinkling rill and the whole orchestra depicts it in full flow as a mighty waterway. The PLO’s sound was grandly powerful here.

The finale was another symphonic poem called Finlandia. Written in 1899 by Finland’s own Jean Sibelius, it involves turbulent music evoking the national struggle of the Finnish people to free themselves from the Russian yoke. It ends with a stirring hymn, providing a wonderful end to a great concert. Several people thought the whole evening brilliant; the best yet.

Despite the squally, rainy weather outside, an alternative Solent Symphony Orchestra concert elsewhere and the lure of Strictly Come Dancing on the box, over one hundred people attended. Many appeared to be staunch supporters of the PLO who turn up at every concert whether in Buckland, Drayton or ALNS near the Eastern Road. Good for them.

Undoubtedly they’ll be at the Christmas Concert on Sunday afternoon 16th December. There’ll be carols and good cheer that’s for sure.

Access the concert page here.


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