All posts by Philip Buttall

Philip R Buttall was the Classical Music Writer at Plymouth Herald from 1997-2017. He is a sought-after piano teacher, composer and arranger, and online concert and CD reviewer. Further information and contact details are available at www.philiprbuttall.co.uk

Haydn’s The Seasons treated with élan by Dartington Community Choir and the newly-formed Dartington Sinfonietta

If you asked any choir aficionado to name a large-scale oratorio by Haydn, it would be a safe bet to expect The Creation by way of a reply.

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Charismatic Christmas concert from the University of Plymouth Choral Society

University of Plymouth Choral Society concerts always tend to have something special about them, and none more than the Christmas event. However, this year’s event just seemed to have some extra charisma.

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Zing and spice from the Three Spires Singers at Truro Cathedral

Variety is the spice of life, they say, and when this applies to programme planning, it can be particularly telling.

Truro’s Three Spires Singers have this off to a fine art. If a vocal work is long enough to stand on its own, then fine. But when it’s not, conductor Christopher Gray doesn’t just pad things out with a few vocal stocking-fillers, but comes up with something more inventive, that makes optimum use of his available singers and players.

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Electrifying start to Queen’s 90th Birthday musical celebration from Plymouth Symphony Orchestra with Benjamin Baker (violin)

This special programme – a musical celebration of the Queen’s 90th Birthday earlier this year – got off to a great start with an electrifying performance of Walton’s Crown Imperial March, which must surely have tugged at the heart-strings of even the most hardened antiroyalist.

Having got the party-mood in full swing, it then seemed a shame that the next couple of pieces did little or nothing to maintain this. Clearly these two works for strings only, were intended to give the brass section a vital breather, but there are, perhaps, some other options out there.

But bring on Ralph Vaughan Williams, and everything is back on track again, in the captivating form of his mini-concerto for violin and orchestra – The Lark Ascending. From the first to last note, this was an outstanding performance from New Zealand-born Benjamin Baker, despatched with such simple, heartfelt emotion, over a finely-contoured and immensely warm accompaniment from the orchestra.

From then on, the celebrations kicked off again with great aplomb, starting with Walton’s Charge and Battle from his Henry V Suite – wisely slotted in before the interval – to ensure everyone was back in real high spirits for Holst’s Jupiter, and finally Elgar’s glorious Enigma Variations. Here, conductor Anne Kimber could not have asked for more from her loyal subjects, led by Dawn Ashby, resulting in one of the orchestra’s most inspired performances to date.

 

PHILIP R BUTTALL

New musical era begins with seamless, stylish and sensitive Peninsula Arts Sinfonietta

Ten Tors Orchestra has just had a makeover, only to rise again under the banner of Peninsula Arts Sinfonietta, although admittedly any outward signs seem more political, than musical.

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Confident and expressive opening from Peninsula Arts String Quartet at Sherwell Centre

This stimulating bit-by-bit reassembly of the string-quartet medium, opened with a confident and expressive performance of the Sarabande and Double from Bach’s First Partita for solo violin, by quartet-leader Pierre-Emmanuel Largeron.

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‘Talk of the town for years to come’: Beethoven Weekend from the Torbay Symphony Orchestra

Orchestral concerts often include one concerto, but two are unusual, unless you’re talking shorter works from the Baroque. Three is virtually unheard of unless you happen to be Torbay Symphony Orchestra (TSO), who not only played the first three Beethoven Piano Concertos on one night, but followed this with the Fourth and Fifth the next day.

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Refreshing jazz salad from Davies and Weekes brings St Andrew’s Summer Lunchtime Recital Series to a close

Over the recent summer months, St Andrew’s has hosted its now annual Lunchtime Recital Series where, each week, audiences have been able to get a light lunch, while enjoying some forty or so minutes of musical entertainment by well over thirty different performers, from organ recitals and a school choir, to small brass and string ensembles, and more besides.

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Fun and enjoyment from the Portland Square Brass Quintet at The Minster Church of St Andrew, Plymouth

Medics aren’t usually best-known for blowing their own trumpet – except, that is, when they play the top two parts in a brass ensemble. Some three years ago, medical doctors Ben Dawson and Bruce Fox teamed up with academic doctors Debby Cotton (horn) and Matthew Watkinson (tuba) – educational researcher and geologist respectively – and professional trombonist Jamie Dove, to form Portland Square Brass Quintet.

Continue reading Fun and enjoyment from the Portland Square Brass Quintet at The Minster Church of St Andrew, Plymouth

Joel Munday and Peter Clarke’s lunchtime recital leaves the audience with a spring in their step

Picking a lunchtime recital programme is not unlike planning a midday meal. Shorter and immediately appealing items are generally better tolerated than something heavy and ponderous, and which then might need the rest of the afternoon to digest.

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Romantic colours at their best: David Stevens’s Organ Recital at The Minster Church of St Andrew

David Stevens

With the variety of instrumentalists and singers taking part in this year’s series of Summer Recitals at St Andrew’s, it’s all too easy to forget that the church still has one of the largest, and indeed finest organs in the whole of the South West.

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Enthusiasm, charisma and drive: The Palace Theatre Choir, Philharmonia and Soloists at The Minster Church of St Andrew

Over the years there have been many choral events in Plymouth’s Mother Church, but The Palace Theatre Choir and Orchestra’s concert was simply quite unlike anything else.

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The piano sings for Samuel Chapple at The Minster Church of St Andrew

Having already commented on the piano tone, it was somewhat worrying to see it miked up this time, where every sound was now going to be amplified, and played back through the PA system – something that tends to make things worse, rather than better.

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Exon Singers shine brightly in Golden Jubilee performance at Tavistock Parish Church

This year marked The Exon Singers’ Golden Jubilee, so the closing event of the 2016 annual festival should prove to be something rather special.

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The Minister Quartet leaves the audience happy after Plymouth lunchtime recital

It takes a lot of organising to plan a lunchtime recital series with almost twenty weekly events – to say nothing of needing to be on hand each time, just in case something goes wrong.

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St Andrew’s Lunchtime Summer Recital provides musical refreshment in a hot Plymouth

St Andrew’s Lunchtime Summer Recitals provide a welcome opportunity for anyone in the city centre to pop in, and perhaps have something to eat, as time permits. For the mainly-local recitalists involved, it can offer an eminently less-formal performance platform.

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Sublime Three Spires Singers at Truro Cathedral

There is undoubtedly a high level of expertise and humanism in Brahms’ German Requiem, but this has rarely been sufficient for it to achieve the same degree of popularity as those, for example, by Verdi, Mozart or Fauré.

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Dartington Community Choir’s celebration of Shakespeare an unmitigated success

With the title Noyses, Sounds & Sweet Aires, it wouldn’t be too difficult to guess this lovely afternoon concert was the choir’s own celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary.

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