2017 Spring Concert Review

Sub-titled ‘Around Europe in Classical Music’ the evening of imaginative
programming began in Italy with a spirited rendition of Donizetti’s ‘Don
Pasquale’ Overture. A brisk opening outburst by the full orchestra was
followed by a lilting ‘cello solo which principal ‘cellist Stuart Payne performed
with poise. Dramatic and sudden changes of mood and speed are a feature of
this humorous work and the overall performance by NDS was convincing and
enjoyable,  with generally reliable ensemble and a good quality of sound from
the string sections.

Next was a switch to Norway, with the short sound picture  ‘Ut Mot Havet’
(‘Out To Sea’) by Edvard Fliflet Braein.  Enormously popular in its home
country, this melodious piece was clearly enjoyed very much by both players
and listeners.  Worth hearing again!

France came next on the musical tour, featuring ‘Petite Suite’ by Claude
Debussy, one of his earlier and lesser known works. In four movements of
varied mood and character there was much to commend in the orchestra’s
performance, including good phrasing in the upper strings, excellent ‘cello
ensemble and confident wind playing. The viola section played out well in
some key passages.  In the lively final movement a strong and energetic pulse
was sustained and excellent G-string sound was produced by the violins.

Then on to Austria for the lyrical ‘Romance in F’ by Ludvig van Beethoven for
solo violin and orchestra (a favourite of Yehudi Menuhin.)  Soloist Sylvia Seaton
gave an expressive and well projected performance of this short but dramatic
work, producing a warm, rich sound. With excellent intonation throughout
Sylvia made use of vibrato, varied bowing styles, rubato and a wide dynamic
range to emphasise the drama and passion of the music. The orchestra (led by
Abigail Cross) was responsive to changes in mood and speed, and the very high
sustained notes of the solo violin in the final bars brought this engaging piece
to a beautiful and poised conclusion, much appreciated by the audience.

Then came a surprise encore, shifting us to Hungary. Sylvia was joined by
Abigail Cross to perform two short and very lively ‘characteristic’ Hungarian
violin duos by respectively Bela Bartok and Matyas Seiber. These short folk-
influenced works were delivered with great panache and flair, with excellent
balance and blend of sound between the two violins. The playing drew smiles
and generous applause from everyone and provided a rousing conclusion to
the first half of the programme.

Following the interval the refreshed audience returned to its seats for the
great ‘Eroica’ symphony of Beethoven – a ‘tour de force’ for orchestra and
listeners alike. The first movement displayed convincing playing in the counter
melodies by ‘cellos and basses and overall there was a good and sustained
driving tempo. Block chords were a little ragged near the start but improved as
the movement progressed.  In the ‘funeral march’ second movement there
was once again a rich G-string sound from the violins and overall much to
commend, though perhaps occasionally the woodwind sound was a little too
harsh. Violas came through well in some key moments.  The third movement
successfully maintained its momentum throughout. The horn passages in the
trio section came over with confidence, though perhaps their phrasing might
have been more flowing at times. In the massive final movement the interplay
between violins and ‘cellos was effective and there were good contrasts of
rhythm and dynamics. A few insecure notes in the woodwind, but overall NDS
gave an extremely spirited and rousing performance of this iconic symphony
and brought the evening to an exciting musical conclusion.

Conductor Michael Hitchcock conveyed good energy and clear direction to the
orchestra and they responded very well to him.  In total this was a very varied,
imaginative and ambitious programme for NDS and they pulled it off
successfully!  An evening that was enjoyed greatly by all members of the
audience who I am sure have made a note already of the next concert date –
Saturday 11 November – when the programme will include operatic arias and
Dvorak’s 7 th Symphony.  A night out not to be missed.

Reviewer - David Lee
14 May 2017