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Since Derby Concert Orchestra conductor Jonathan Trout had contracted Covid, his place was taken by Bob Chasey, a college friend of his, I'm told, and a former violinist with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. He seems to have established a good rapport with the players, so it was a pity there was no information about him in the programme, even though there had clearly been enough time to change the conductor’s name on the front cover.
A Nordic first half first opened with Sibelius' Karelia Suite, the first movement picking up after a slightly uncertain start. While the second movement felt a touch stolid at times, the third movement had plenty of energy.
In Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No 1, Morning Mood felt fresh, followed by a plangent, dignified account of Åse's Death. Anitra's Dance was graceful, while In the Hall of the Mountain King (which Grieg once claimed that he couldn't bear to listen to any more) was rumbustious.
Dvořák's Symphony No 9, 'From the New World', comprised the second half. The first movement held together well, though an unscripted acceleration towards the end wasn't strictly necessary. A gently flowing and atmospheric second movement featured Vicki Newall's expressive cor anglais solo. The third movement's dances were rhythmically alert, and though the performance of the finale felt rather episodic, the big final climax was powerful without losing clarity, and the concluding fade-out was nicely judged.
Last-minute re-arrangements no doubt contributed to the orchestra occasionally seeming at less than its best. In particular, there were some odd details of balance. Horns tended to dominate, as did the tuba and, in the Dvořák particularly, the clarinets' tone sometimes cut through with a noticeably sharp edge. The timpani, too, were overpowering at times, though that may have been partly the result of where I was sitting. All the same, there was some fine playing, and the performances were shaped with care for more than just passing details.
Copyright © 6 August 2022