Most orchestral programmes include a concerto, which not only gives the players an opportunity to perform alongside some of the top names, but also can make programmes considerably more attractive in helping to fill a venue.
Bulgarian cellist Michael Petrov certainly proved a worthy soloist in Dvorak’s well-known concerto for the instrument, in a well-studied reading that gained in presence and authority as it progressed, and where his playing by memory made a telling contribution.
But it was ultimately the orchestra itself that emerged the true star of the evening, and nowhere more so than in Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. This is definitely no easy score to play, and credit must be due equally to conductor Anne Kimber, for holding everything together effectively, and to the players, who tackled the complex jazz licks and rhythms with great assurance, in a performance delivered with real panache. Each section played its part, but, of course, the percussion, and especially some great xylophone work, really clinched things.
Verdi’s Force of Destiny Overture provided a suitably stirring opening, and the strings, led by Paul Mathews, proved particularly expressive in Rachmaninov’s Vocalise. Richard Rodgers’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue might have been a tad more entertaining, had it been possible to project Balanchine’s original ballet sequence onto the tapestry behind, which, in any case, looks in need of some restoration.
PHILIP R BUTTALL
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