I have attended every NDS concert since their foundation, and yet I never cease to be amazed at the variety of music played by them. There is always something unusual or new, amongst the old favourites. The recent concert included the Beethoven Symphony 1 and the Mozart Piano Concerto 24, both of which I know quite well, the Rossini Overture to ‘An Italian Girl in Algiers’, which I have heard before but do not know well, and the Finzi ‘Eclogue’, which I have never heard before, and to which I was not looking forward. Surprise! It was beautiful, and quite unlike other Finzi that I have heard. Sometimes it is the orchestra committee who choose what is played, sometimes the conductor – and it is probably because NDS has a number of different conductors, rather than a resident conductor that the choice is so varied. However, in this concert, it was the pianist, the ever-popular Mariela Cingo, who chose the piece. Surprising, perhaps, that an Albanian should choose a quintessentially English piece, but it worked perfectly. Intended originally by Mariela as an encore, it was ‘promoted’ to its own place in the programme as it deserved (quite rightly in my opinion) a place of its own.
It was also very much appreciated that both the conductor (Brynly Clarke) and Mariela spoke about each piece before it was played, and in language that even a layman like myself could understand. It made each piece more enjoyable, as one was listening out for the points mentioned. For instance, Bryn said that, as Mozart ‘wrote the book’ on piano concertos, he was perfectly entitled to tear it up! Until this concerto, it was customary for the orchestra to play one theme, then another, and only then did the pianist come in to play and develop the first theme. In this concerto, the orchestra plays one theme, then another, before the pianist comes in with a third! But then, a genius comes round only very rarely …
As usual, the orchestra played well under Brynly’s expert guidance, and were true partners of the piano in the two pieces Mariela played so well.
The overture was full of suspense, and Brynly took it at a very bright pace, leaving the audience – and players – with smiles on their faces, waiting for the Mozart.
Mariela and the orchestra played together very sensitively during the quieter parts of the concerto, but Mariela’s skills were amply demonstrated, especially in the final movement, with her fingers flying over the keys in a dazzling display.
The Finzi has a beautiful descriptive melody which immediately hooked the audience, and the piano was accompanied very delicately by the NDS string section, led superbly by Sylvia Seaton. The orchestra and Mariela came to a rousing climax in the middle of the piece, before handing back the reins to Mariela, who finished with great tenderness, accompanied by a blackbird outside the hall!
Brynly really came into his own during the Beethoven, demanding – and getting – the utmost out of the orchestra. The symphony ranges from the slow introduction to the bouncy, uplifting finale, with multiple solo parts in between. The fortissimo sections in particular were brought to life vigorously by the conductor, with the orchestra responding in full force.
The next concert (according to the programme) will also be a mix of the well-known (Vaughan-Williams ‘The Lark Ascending’, Elgar ‘Pomp and Circumstance March No 4’) with the less well-known (Vaughan-Williams ‘Folk Song Suite’, Butterworth ‘A Shropshire Lad’) and the completely unknown (Holst ‘Suite de Ballet’). All English music, and I can’t wait!