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