As Shakespeare himself says in The Two Gentlemen of Verona: ‘Orpheus’ lute was strung with poets’ sinews, whose golden touch could soften steel and stones.’ WildKat PR could not agree more after last night’s brilliant concert from Orpheus Sinfonia at St George’s Church, Hanover Square.
The whole theme of the evening was the influence that Shakespeare’s plays have had on composers and as well as performances of Korngold, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev we were treated to two graduates from LAMDA (Andrew Nolan and Sophie Steer) who acted excerpts from the plays in between the musical programme. This addition helped achieve the goal of the Beneath the Score series: to dig deeper into the music.
A depiction of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo: Blogging Shakespeare
If I sat back and closed my eyes, I would not have known Orpheus Sinfonia were not an orchestra such as the LSO, such was the calibre of the playing: the woodwind, particularly the flutes, captured me from the very first chords of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the opening piece. Their vibrato was unmistakable for the rest of the concert.
One of my highlights was Korngold’s Much Ado about Nothing. Orpheus Sinfonia really showed off their versatility during this piece by capturing both the comedy of the play and unleashing long lyrical lines. I had already decided that the Korngold was my new favourite piece but by the time Delius’ The Walk to the Paradise Garden had finished, I had changed my mind. The strings meshed together blissfully, bringing out the impressionism of the piece. The cellos in particular sung out and possessed that ‘golden touch’ Shakespeare spoke of. It was also the perfect opportunity for the actors to act out the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. The silence between the notes dying away and keen applause said it all.
The conductor, Thomas Carroll, provided an insightful commentary throughout but especially before Tchaikovsky’s well known Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. He outlined the structure of the piece and the ‘characters’ that particular instruments were supposed to represent. The woodwind at the start of the piece symbolized the noble Friar Laurence whilst the constant horn rhythms acted as the heartbeat of the lovers. This explanation allowed me to hear the piece in a new way.
The venue, St George’s Church, had beautiful acoustics which really amplified the rich sound of the orchestra. The intimate setting was a nice change from a large concert hall; it meant you could see the players as they were performing and it was clear they were enjoying themselves. There were also a number of young people there and, chatting to a couple afterwards, they commented on how accessible the music had been through the combination of excerpts and explanation.
A wonderful evening overall, make sure you look out for details of the next one.
Orpheus Sinfonia. Photo: The Stage