On Saturday July 2nd 2022 Marlborough Concert Orchestra gave their first concert under their new conductor Philip Singleton and their new leader, Karen Sancto in St Mary’s Church. We were treated to Haydn Symphony No: 99 in E flat and Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll in the first half, and Mahler’s Blumine (Flower) and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony in the second.
The acoustics in the Church are very difficult to cope with; louder passages can be overwhelming, and softer parts present problems of balance, ensemble and tone.
After only nine rehearsals with the new partnership in a different building MCO with Philip Singleton had to meet this challenge. And did, mostly with success. Mr Singleton is in much demand; he is an experienced, imaginative and accomplished musician and conducted the whole programme without a score, so the rapport between the players and conductor was strikingly good. MCO have struck gold !
The Haydn was played with commendable verve, sensitive phrasing and colourful dynamics, particularly in the first movement.
Wagner’s long discursive idyll opened with a string quartet for 30 bars and then the whole orchestra completed the performance. The communication between conductor and players was good, so ensemble playing worked well. There were however some rare moments when intonation/balance was not altogether coherent.
After the interval, Mahler’s light and attractive piece, Blumine, (originally the second movement of his first symphony but discarded as such) sensitively played here was a delight. The strings under Karen Sancto have a richness of tone in all four sections, which made it particularly easy to follow and appreciate. It was interesting from the programme notes (written by Sue Birley) to learn that this work was lost and then revived by Benjamin Britten in 1967.
Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony is a familiar work to many concert goers and this vigorous and imaginative rendering made me want to sing along; the wonderful melodies so clearly expressed and glowing. More experience of the difficulties posed by the acoustics will iron out the imbalance between deafeningly loud but exciting fortissimo passages and the slightly thinner tone of the more delicately orchestrated softer parts.
We were treated to an electrifying performance of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance number 5 for an encore with a louder ending; as Mr Singleton pointed out, three out of the four pieces had quiet endings! An excellent and promising concert: we look forward to the next one in December.
If any reader plays an orchestral instrument, do apply to join! You will have a fulfilling and wonderful time.