You can't really fail to make an impact with Dvořák's rumbustious overture Carnival. Derby Concert Orchestra's assistant conductor Ed Temple set a not particularly tearaway tempo, but there was plenty of vitality, and the quieter moments made their full effect.
Bruch's Violin Concerto No 1 is another sure winner. Jonathan Trout took over as conductor at this point, and in Sophie Rosa the orchestra had a thoughtful soloist with warm, focused tone – no wonder they keep asking her back. The start of the first movement may feel improvisatory, but here there was always a sure sense of where the music was heading. The transition to the second movement was allowed to make its point without exaggeration and, throughout, it was handled with the kind of expressive intensity that doesn't need to raise its voice. The finale followed with hardly any break. Here Bruch tries on Brahms' Hungarian gypsy manner for size, although it never quite fits, but Rosa and the orchestra between them made the music playful when it needed to be.
Brahms' Symphony No 2 is often thought of as sunny and relaxed, but DCO's performance didn't shy away from exploring the first movement's more shadowy places. A pity, though, that the repeat was ignored, unbalancing the movement's proportions. Principal horn Lynda Benson made the usually calm, pastoral solo towards the end more restless than we usually hear, and the movement ended with a firm sense that there was plenty of expressive space still to be explored.
The second movement was allowed to brood, with a passage of horn and woodwind counterpoint clearly not at ease with itself, emotionally. The third movement's quick sections bubbled, and the lead-back into the first reprise of the opening was neatly dovetailed.
The initially subdued exuberance at the start of the finale had just the right feel of expectancy, giving the subsequent loud outburst a tremendous sense of finally being let off the leash. The coda was a real celebration, positively basking in the glow from the trombones at the end, echoing the final bars of the Dvořák. Congratulations to whoever thought of that subtle piece of programming.
Copyright © 29 March 2022