Concert Reviews

 

Review of Folkestone Symphony Concert – Holy Trinity Church – Saturday 5th November 2016
 
A packed audience had the privilege of listening to a fine classical music concert in Holy Trinity Church on Saturday 5th November, given by the Folkestone Symphony in the company of the Mayor and Mayoress of Folkestone and the Mayor and Mayoress of Hythe. In an era when most listeners get their music wired directly into their ears, it was wonderful to see so many people enjoying live music. As the conductor, Rupert Bond, said by way of introduction to the pieces, each of the composers featured was a wonderful communicator through exploitation of orchestral sound – music is at best a shared experience.  The wrapt audience attention and enthusiastic applause to all three pieces showed this orchestra could deliver the experience with gusto.
 
The overture, Helios Overture by Danish composer Carl Nielsen, is music which conveys images of scenic beauty.  It was composed to the magnificent backdrop of the sun rising over the glories of the Aegean. It is not heard that often but it gives wonderful opportunities for the brass to convey the brilliance of light as it breaks from dawn into midday and then fades towards evening. From the opening sombre tones of the bass instruments through to the haunting harmonies of the horns towards the end, here was a performance moulded through carefully controlled dynamics to paint a picture of a glittering landscape in our minds.
 
If the overture was about communicating pictures, then the concerto was a fascinating study of conversations between orchestra and soloist. It is rewarding to be treated to an orchestra accompanying a soloist from their own ranks, particularly one who is such a complete master of his craft. The Mozart Clarinet Concerto is in many ways the prototype for the modern concerto – it was after all written for the most modern of instruments in the late eighteenth century and it allows the soloist to explore the breadth of sounds the clarinet can produce. Bill Kenchington, involved with the orchestra now for nearly two decades, achieved delicate softness and sparkling flourishes in equal measure, giving us some thrilling moments. So much of the concerto – including the exquisitely beautiful slow movement – is about the discourse between the orchestra and the soloist and the rich sound of the full string section played impressively against the discriminating tones of the virtuoso clarinet playing. It would have been easy for so many players to have overwhelmed the clarinet but on account of the most sensitive of accompanying skills, particularly from the ‘cellos and basses, the piece ended as an exhilarating but equal dialogue.
 
Rupert Bond opened the second half of the concert with a most interesting talk about the final piece, Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 in D.  A demonstration by the first violins of the three note theme integral to each of the changing moods of the work led to an appraisal of how tackling this masterpiece was something of a challenge: he called the second movement “something of a beast” and pointed out how fast and furious the scherzo was. 
 
In fact from the first sonorous chords of the opening movement it was clear that conductor and players had tremendous control over this vast, popular and powerful piece of music. The first movement gave the woodwind plenty of scope to show their strengths as the evocative themes unfolded. Soon after, the whole string section accomplished the pizzicato passages with an assurance rarely heard with such a difficult technique, guided with poise and discipline by the excellent leader, Flo Peycelon. The confidence of the orchestra was palpable as they revealed the beauty of Sibelius’ love of his northern homeland through the rest of the movement.
 
The second movement is episodic, but there was no lack of coherence in this interpretation with the gentle plucked theme of the basses and ‘cellos leading into the soulful tones of the bassoons who in turn gave way to the far nostalgic timbre of the trumpets – beautifully resonating strings and sonorous timpani making for the most poignant moments of the evening. Nor did the conductor miss the opportunities of giving us maximum moments for reflection in magical moments of silence before the movement was brought to a close with typical Sibelius simplicity.
 
And that really was the quiet before the storm – and what a storm it was. The speed for the third movement was just right and everyone coped – section after section tripping along after each other with an enchanting middle section with glances back to the three note theme from the start. And then into the last movement. This finale really does have its basis in a gorgeous tune and in the hands of these musicians it was developed with animation and artistry – truly this was a set of performers pouring out the joy of making music and reminding us that digital music is not everything – here in Folkestone, live symphonic music is healthy and vibrant.
 
David Pestell
 
 
Review of Folkestone Symphony Concert – Holy Trinity Church
Saturday 9th July 2016
 
Folkestone Symphony gave their summer concert on Saturday 9th July at Holy Trinity Church. It began with a wonderfully exuberant performance of Walton’s Johannesburg Festival Overture, written for the seventieth anniversary of the city. It was a propitious choice, for it characterised the whole concert - full of flair, great tunes executed with precision and balanced rhythmic diversity and orchestral contrasts. Particularly fine moments here came from the superb brass section and the unusually large percussion section, enhanced on this occasion by tom-toms, rumba sticks and all kinds of exotica to make this jazzy explosion of music an absolute pleasure.
 
The overture was not the only unusual piece in the concert, nor was it the only one with African connections. The second half began with a little known cello concerto, number four of eight by the mid-nineteenth century German, Georg Goltermann. It was in the programme as a tribute to the 18 year old principal cellist, James Wedge, - now leaving the orchestra after seven years of service – and how privileged we were to share in that moment. The piece turned out to be a delight in itself, full of expressive melody and joyous interaction between soloist and orchestra (the duet with the bassoon was particularly memorable) but it was not for the piece that the audience burst into applause at the end – it was for the unmissable talent of this young soloist. He accomplished amazing runs at great speed, his bow control brought every ounce of tone from the instrument and his intense but engaging rapport with the audience was stunning for one so young. Most moving of all was his commitment to the charity Alongside Africa, to which James had donated his soloist fees as well as devoting his time last summer to volunteering for this small local charity which gives its all to supporting - in fact saving - the lives of desperate and destitute children in a remote part of Uganda.
 
Before the interval, we had also enjoyed one of the great pieces of the orchestral repertoire – Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exposition in its brilliant orchestration by Ravel. It began life as a piano tribute to the composer’s artist friend who had died tragically and portrays an imagined walk through a gallery of a number of his pictures – many of them fascinatingly grotesque or evocative. This talented orchestra had no difficulty, marshalled superbly by their conductor, Rupert Bond, in exploiting all the colour and shades of this really rather difficult work. The highly versatile woodwind department were playing additional instruments to depict the widely different paintings – cor anglais, alto saxophone, piccolo and bass clarinet all creating marvellous moments. This composition, however, is not just about illustration, it is renowned for the brilliance of its ending –  with bells, cascading scales, wonderful tune and sheer volume combining in a tremendous climax. You might imagine that no amateur orchestra could do that justice… but here the audience were in raptures at the end, and deservedly so.
 
The finale to the concert was also Russian – Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture, a fitting piece for the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and another challenge – the fight, the love scene and the haunting orthodox sounds of the chorale associated with Friar Lawrence all need careful and sensitive treatment as they are so well known. Much of the burden of creating the emotion falls on the strings, who were led with distinction and fervour by Flo Peycelon. The violins, only sixteen in number, had to compete with some of the most majestic wind playing I have heard for a long time (especially the excellent trumpets and the poignant horn descant) and yet their passionate expression of tragic love soared high into the vaults of this lovely church.
 
Rupert Bond brought meaning to the music not only through making each of these performances special, but also through his accord with the audience. When he spoke to us of his eagerness for all to share in the wonder of classical music, I can only hope that his wish is fulfilled with a huge audience at this orchestra’s next concerts – you will not find better.
 
David Pestell
 
 
Folkestone Symphony Spring Concert 23rd April 2016
 
A well-balanced Programme demonstrated the strength and versatility of this fine Orchestra led by violinist Floriane Peycelon under the commanding baton of conductor Rupert Bond in the warm acoustic of the United Reform Church.
 
Beethoven’s Leonora Overture No, 3 was excellently paced. All sections of the Orchestra were fully drawn upon in a robust but sensitively varied performance of a work weightier than the title would imply. From the off-stage trumpet to the balance of brass and woodwinds and the sheen of string playing there was a fine intensity throughout. 
 
Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s extensive orchestral works typically combine a unique sense of violence and clashing forces, order and chaos, quicksilver changes of mood, rhythm and tonality and the Concerto for Flute and Orchestra is no exception. Composed a few years before his death, it requires virtuoso playing by the soloist and orchestra, a challenge which was effortlessly met by soloist Matthew Featherstone, interweaving intricately with the orchestra dextrously balanced by the conductor. 
 
The First Symphony of Brahms, a huge challenge for an orchestra, ended the concert in fine style.  This monumental work called on all the resources of the 57 players, from the opening rhythmic pulsating beat of tympani by George Barton, outstanding throughout the evening. Perhaps there were a few moments when there was a lack of clear focus, but the onward momentum never faltered. The final movement, with the sweeping grandeur of its recurring hymn-like march theme built inexorably to a climax earning a well-deserved ovation from the capacity audience.
 
Future concerts by the orchestra should not be missed!
 
John Harris
 

 

Critiques of FHOS concert – Sat 7 November 2015

Berkeley Hill

The Folkestone and Hythe Orchestral Society (FHOS, or ‘Folkestone Symphony’) under its conductor Rupert Bond has become one of the area’s musical treasures.  Now that professional symphony orchestras no longer visit the Leas Cliff Hall, FHOS has become the only way to hear live performances of the standard repertoire.  The venue for its most recent concert (Holy Trinity Church, Folkestone) has been transformed by recent adjustments to lighting and furnishings to provide probably the best environment in the town for orchestral music. Acoustically warm and appropriately lit, it was well suited to the FHOS orchestra and enhanced its sound while retaining excellent clarity. 

The concert of music by Verdi (Force of Destiny overture), Berlioz (Les Nuits d’été) and Sibelius (Symphony No. 1) proved to be an engaging and enjoyable experience for the large audience (the central space was completely full).  Though nominally an amateur organisation, there was a sprinkling of familiar faces of professional musicians among the 65 players.  The mix worked, and the orchestra provided technically assured accounts of all three works; one soon forgot the mechanics and could focus on the music.  This was good orchestral fare, well balanced and sensitively delivered.  Rupert Bond is clearly a conductor that has inspired the orchestra and raised its game beyond the ordinary.  The fact he has apparently committed himself to a complete cycle of Sibelius symphonies over coming years is good news for the orchestra and for the town.

There were many memorable passages.  In the Berlioz the players were obviously listening acutely to the excellent mezzo soloist Kiri Parker – she projected well, in clear French (though it would have been helpful to have the texts in the printed programme), and had the heft to dominate the orchestra in the louder, more passionate passages.  However, it was the orchestra’s pianissimo playing that was the most impressive, always keeping within the scale of the voice.  That must have taken a lot of rehearsal time, but the outcome was magical. 

Other passages that remain in the memory were the spell-binding opening clarinet solo of the Symphony’s first movement, the beautiful opening and closing quiet sections of the second movement, the excellent string fortissimo unisons at the start of the fourth (getting near the impact of a professional band), and some distinguished trumpet playing later on.

Of course, there were some minor quibbles.  Though the quiet playing was of high quality, when the whole orchestra was playing loudly (the Verdi and first Berlioz song) the sound coarsened and tuning suffered.  The cut-offs in the Verdi were sometimes brutal and occasionally ragged.  The timpani (back in the chancel) were rather distant and thus lacked impact compared with a professional performance in a concert hall; but professional orchestras no longer come to the Leas Cliff Hall, and the FHOS makes a very acceptable substitute. Mr Bond clearly has some areas to work on with the FHOS and it will be interesting to see how the sound develops over his long-term plan to explore the Sibelius symphonies.

Taken as a whole, this was a very enjoyable concert in which the FHOS gave an excellent account of itself.  More than that; it provided Folkestone with the opportunity to experience live symphonic music.  I look forward to the next performances and hope music lovers in the area will give Folkestone Symphony strong support.  This band amply deserves it.

 

FOLKESTONE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Concert Report - 4th July 2015

On Saturday 4th July the Folkestone Symphony Orchestra gave their summer concert in the newly refurbished Holy Trinity Church in Sandgate Road in Folkestone. With its enlarged performance space, superb new lighting and an excellent acoustic for music, this proved a most satisfactory new venue.

The musical tone for the whole evening was set right from the opening notes of the overture, which was from Rossini’s opera, The Italian Girl in Algiers. The wonderfully soft pizzicato strings with the orchestra playing absolutely as one, was followed by some beautiful woodwind solos. This contrasted well with the driving allegro sections with their typical Rossini crescendos. The orchestra excelled themselves throughout the entire concert with some marvellously disciplined playing, expertly controlled by their conductor, Rupert Bond.

This was shown nowhere better than in the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 which followed. The soloist, Nadia Lasserson, gave a refined and accomplished performance of the work, with the orchestra accompanying with admirable control and restraint throughout. In the Romanze, for example, while the soloist in the middle section was playing a series of dramatic arpeggios, the woodwind and strings of the orchestra maintained a beautiful and restrained sostenuto. In the last movement too, contrasts of mood were well handled by both soloist and orchestra. Prior to the piece, Nadia had explained to the audience that the cadenzas she was playing were written by a sixteen year old Denis Matthews for the late Dame Myra Hess. These too showed great refinement and restraint for someone of such a young age. The performance of this concerto seemed to reflect the gravity of the key of D minor in which it was set, and which apparently had such a personal significance to the composer. Only at the end did the mood really brighten as it finished in the tonic key of D major.

The Eroica symphony of Beethoven was a work that changed the musical landscape of symphonic development for ever. Right from the outset one felt the orchestra and conductor to be as one in their interpretation of this great work. There was a confidence and assuredness emanating from the performance, with the many contrasts of light and shade being very well realised, especially in the final movement. This is a long work, but nevertheless, orchestra and conductor maintained the emotional intensity of the piece throughout. This performance demanded the large audience’s full attention and earned a well-deserved prolonged and enthusiastic ovation. [As something of an aside, this listener noted one crescendo during the course of the work that felt rather like a precursor to the Rossini crescendos heard earlier].

I have had the pleasure of hearing this orchestra many times over the years, but do not believe I have ever heard them play better than on Saturday. Rupert is doing an amazing job with them. This is certainly an orchestra of which Folkestone can be proud.

                                                                                                                M.J.L. 07/15

 

Folkestone Symphony Orchestra Concert

United Reformed Church Folkestone

21st March 2015

It is always very rewarding when a choir or orchestra has the opportunity to perform to a large audience, as it gives that extra incentive to the singers or players to perform to their highest level. Such was the case on Saturday 21st March when the Folkestone Orchestra, under the expert direction of Rupert Bond, performed a very exciting and popular programme to a capacity audience in the United Reformed Church in Folkestone. They commenced with Glinka’s Overture to ‘Ruslan and Ludmila’, a piece that is especially challenging to the string players. Rupert certainly took no prisoners in his choice of tempo, but the orchestra rose to the challenge magnificently, with the piece having a strong driving rhythm throughout. The contrasts and drama within in the work were also well captured. In addition to the conductor, the leader of the orchestra, Floriane Peycelon, is to be congratulated on the way the strings over recent years have made tremendous advances in their levels of performance, and this piece particularly demonstrated that improvement.

 For this writer the highlight of the concert was a performance of the Max Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, with the soloist an incredibly talented 17 year old Rumanian, now studying at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, called Tudor Trita. He has apparently already been able to play this very virtuosic work for several years, and it was clear from this performance that the numerous difficulties involved in the piece held no fear for him. Thus the audience could just relax and enjoy the wonderful performance, which was also really enhanced by the sympathetic playing of the orchestra, beautifully controlled by their conductor. At no point was there any feeling that the orchestra were in danger of overpowering the soloist, such was the control shown in the many quiet sections. On the other hand the orchestral tuttis were exciting with a strong driving rhythmic momentum. One of the many memorable moments in the work was the wonderful pianissimo playing from the soloist at the end of the second movement followed by the dramatic opening of the final movement rondo. One wonders whether as the soloist matures still further he will bring even more emotion into this gorgeous slow movement. Tudor clearly has a great musical future ahead of him and we look forward to hearing of his continued progress.

The main work in the second half of the programme was the ever popular Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’ by Dvorak. Many of the positive features mentioned above were present here, such as the rhythmic drive in the faster passages, (again taken at a good speed), some lovely sustained playing particularly from the strings in quieter passages and much really good ensemble playing. There were a few minor blemishes at various points in the piece in terms of intonation, and some entries not quite happening unanimously, but these did not detract from the positive overall playing of the orchestra working under a conductor who clearly knew the work intimately. Before the performance of the work started, Rupert had helped aid the audience’s understanding of the symphony, by getting various players and sections of the orchestra to demonstrate some of the musical strands that bind the work together. Although I know he had two minds about doing this, I believe that most would have found his explanations beneficial.

The appreciation of this concert by the packed audience was very clear to see, and they were rewarded with another ‘lollipop’ in the form of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No. 8 played once again with tremendous drive and energy. I am sure that the audience would all have gone home feeling that they had experienced a most enjoyable and exhilarating evening.

MJL 03.15

 

Folkestone and Hythe Orchestral Society Concert – 5th July 2014

For the Centenary programme based on music associated with the 1914-18 War, this programme performed at the Folkestone United Reformed Church, brought a challenge of utterly different styles to which the Orchestra rose with panache.

The first half was devoted to two quintessentially English works. Butterworth’s “Banks of Green Willow” caught the spirit of the English countryside. After some uncertain moments in balance and intonation, Butterworth’s plangent evocation of the peaceful English pastoral scene was finely conjured, particularly by the woodwinds, under-pinned by cellos and basses and the rich tone of Leader Floriane Peycelon.

The performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto was a tour de force by both soloist and Orchestra. The outstanding young Australian soloist Pei-Jee Ng combined a powerful intensity of tone and technical mastery with the ability to switch from scurrying pizzicato to sustained passionate melodies vividly conveying Elgar’s underlying sense of anguish. Here the conductor and orchestra were eloquent in beautifully balancing the soloist’s passages with their own combination of powerful outbursts and brooding menace.

Ravel’s popular four Movement Suite brought a Gallic style dedicating its four movements to friends killed in the War. Purely as music, of course, its familiar dance rhythms were finely played, notably including a virtuoso role executed by Oboist David Montague.

The final items took us with a complete change of style into the world of the theatre and film score. “Dartmoor 1912”, the theme music from “War Horse” and 5 songs from “Oh! What a Lovely War” showed the Orchestra’s versatility including full harmony whistling. Themes from “Lawrence of Arabia” were despatched with jubilation enhanced by the increased brass who took their opportunity to great effect and a genuine Concert Orchestra performance concluded the evening.

The programme clearly demonstrated the mutual understanding of Orchestra and conductor Andrew Lowen who, after 7 years on the podium, was wished well as he moves on to new challenges after this resoundingly successful finale.

John Harris

 

FHOS Concert Report for Maritime Jubilee Prom Concert

In Saga building, Folkestone – 7th July 2012

 

This was a most enjoyable concert full of stylistic contrasts and set in a venue with a magnificent sea view. In the overture, Mendelsohn’s Calm Sea and a Prosperous Voyage, the orchestra showed great restraint and discipline in the long quiet opening section before unleashing itself with some excellent forte playing superbly enhanced by the building’s acoustic. (This venue in the writer’s experience suits itself very well to instrumental ensembles, though considerably less so for choral groups). This work appears to show Mendelssohn at his most optimistic, with the orchestra capturing well the contrasting atmospheres of the piece.

In Elgar’s Sea Pictures that followed, the mezzo-soprano Helen Stanley was a delight to listen to. Andrew’s conducting throughout was very sensitive to the soloist and the orchestra too once again showed great discipline and restraint in ensuring they always maintained a volume that allowed the soloist to come through. The singer too had magnificent control of volume, so that in the third song the effortless power that she produced at key moments was most exhilarating. She held her own well in these passages against a loud orchestra. Some of the music here reminded one of Gerontius or The Kingdom. The final song of the five was the most dramatic with Elgar in symphonic mode in the opening, and hints of the ‘Demons’ from Gerontius briefly rearing their ugly heads. All in all this performance of a tricky work full of contrasts was very well handled by singer, conductor and orchestra alike.

The final lightweight piece of the first half was a sudden release from the intensity of the two previous ones, and perhaps the orchestra too slightly relaxed here. The Overture to Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore is one of their shortest, but served to send the audience out into the interval with some popular tunes in their heads.

Another lightweight piece followed the interval – Ashworth Hope’s Barnacle Bill, known to millions as the theme from BBC Television’s ‘Blue Peter’ programme. Once again the orchestra might have been just a little too relaxed here.

A very pleasing lightness of touch was maintained really well throughout Hamilton Harty’s very full orchestration of Handel’s Water Music. There was some particularly delightful playing in the slow expressive fifth movement. The final Allegro deciso movement brought back pictures into the mind of the magnificent Thames procession of a few weeks previously.

This listener particularly enjoyed the performance of Themes from the Titanic which showed some really tight knit playing and rhythmic complexities well handled by conductor and players alike.

We were then into the traditional proms pieces to conclude the concert which included some superb solo playing. (Such a pity that a beautiful Oboe solo was spoiled by noises from the automatic window opening)! The one major reservation for this listener is that there was no chorus to lead the audience singing. Somehow these concerts seem to create a much better proms type atmosphere when there is such a group.

The above reservation aside, this concert truly showed the diversity of style of which the orchestra is capable in their performance of a very well chosen programme, and I am sure that everyone in the smaller than deserved audience went home having fully enjoyed the evening. 

MJL 07.12

 

F.H.O.S Concert 17th March 2012, Folkestone U.R.C.

After the orchestra’s large scale memorable 50th anniversary concert in the Leas Cliff Hall, it was a good decision for the next concert to be more low key, in a different venue, and with a contrasting style of programme. Folkestone URC with its tiered seating, good acoustics and significant space was an excellent choice of venue as it still maintains an air of relaxed informality.

The first thing that struck one was the large size of the orchestra – in particular the string section. The Schubert Overture that started the concert was an excellent choice as it demonstrated well contrasting styles of playing – sometimes slow and sustained and at others fast and exuberant. There was some marvellous playing in this Rossini like overture from flute and oboe, which were well supported by some very controlled string playing.

Another good decision was that instead of a concerto, the next two items on the programme should feature separate sections of the orchestra. First was a major transcription for wind by Sue Lowen of a Fantasie in F minor by Schubert for piano duet. This substantial piece comprising effectively four continuous movements presented a real challenge to the players to which they responded well. After the initial perception of a piano duet, the piece soon totally embraced its new identity with the players responding by themselves quickly becoming fully involved.

After the wind players acquitting themselves so well it was then the turn of the large string section to perform a Mozart Divertimento without a conductor, but being led brilliantly by the orchestra’s leader, Floriane Peycelon. This was really impressive, particularly in the outer movements, where the orchestra played as one with excellent ensemble and intonation. The whole thing demonstrated a high level of musical discipline from the players as well as tremendous leadership from Floriane.

After the interval the full orchestra performed Haydn’s “Drumroll” Symphony with once again really contrasting moods being realised well. The work seems to alternate between almost “Beethovenesque” moods of darkness and typical Haydn buoyancy of spirit. In the second movement, even though it is in a major key, light struggles to break through the sombre gloom. I wondered whether in the Minuet and Trio, bearing in mind the size of the orchestra, the Trio might have had a reduced number of players in order to create a more significant delineation. In the end though, the final movement showed that light was fully restored. There were good contrasts of volume throughout, some nice clean horn duet moments, and the evening ended with that typical “Haydnesque”, ‘all is well with the world’ feeling!

MJL March 2012

 

Folkestone & Hythe Orchestral Society’s 50th Anniversary Concert

Saturday 26th November 2011, Leas Cliff Hall Folkestone.

One of the great things about British music which differentiates us from many of our near neighbours is the opportunity so many of us have for making music at whatever level, and for musicians to come together, both professionals and amateurs, to produce really memorable musical occasions. One such occurred in the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone on Saturday when the Folkestone and Hythe Orchestral Society held their 50th Anniversary Concert. They were joined for the occasion by the Folkestone Choral Society with their conductor Berkeley Hill, and also by one of the world’s finest pianists, Freddy Kempf.

The programme commenced with the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor by Borodin, the main theme of which was popularised in the song ‘Strangers in Paradise’ from the musical show Kismet. This work really gave many opportunities for the excellent woodwind section of the orchestra to shine. The percussion too were able in the middle section of the piece to express themselves forcefully and effectively! The choir are to be commended for their decision to sing in the original Russian – a real challenge for most. Although there were inevitably moments when the orchestra overpowered the singers, the balance between the two was for the most part excellent with great restraint being shown by the players.

The highlight of the evening was without doubt a performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 by top international pianist, Freddy Kempf. Freddy has a strong link with Folkestone from his youth, and it was therefore so appropriate that he was able to make himself available in his busy schedule to come and support this special evening. His performance was simply mesmerising. The contrasts of power and total tranquillity; a staggering musical technique; the changing of roles from leading to accompanying; his total awareness throughout of what the orchestra were playing; all of these combined to transfix all who were fortunate enough to be present. The magic was certainly felt by the orchestra too, who were inspired and played with extreme discipline and sensitivity throughout. In the slow movement there were some particularly memorable moments in the woodwind and string playing. The dialogue between orchestra and soloist was so well realised, and congratulations must go to the conductor, Andrew Lowen for the superb way he handled the whole performance.

After the interval the baton was handed to Berkeley Hill who started by leading a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to you’. (The name took a little bit of fitting in)! The Romantic theme of the first half was continued with Hubert Parry’s ever popular choral work, Blest Pair of Sirens. This was the work that led to the composer’s ability being widely recognised, and has regularly been performed by choral societies up and down the land ever since. It has that quality of ‘Englishness’ that also characterises much of the work of his contemporary Elgar. The choir were able to enjoy the composer’s broad brushstrokes as the orchestra provided a solid foundation. After the powerful works so far heard in this concert, the Serenade to Music by Vaughan Williams which followed, was a masterpiece of programme planning. This was V.W. in full pastoral mode, requiring and receiving great control and sensitivity throughout. The composer uses the harp in this piece in his effort to create a feeling of tranquillity, which was also enhanced by the orchestra’s leader, Floriane Peycelon in her solo passages. The two vocal soloists, Tamara File and Paul Young also fulfilled their roles well in adding to this atmosphere, and were supported sensitively by the players. A well-judged overall balance between choir and orchestra was also achieved.

Berkeley then returned the baton to Andrew for the final item of the evening, the Prelude to Wagner’s The Mastersingers of Nuremburg. Up to this point in the programme the brass players of the orchestra had needed to play with great restraint for much of the time. Now was their moment, which they were able to enjoy to the full! The double bass section too has its moment in the spotlight with the main tune proudly played near the end of the piece. The orchestra coped superbly with some challenging string writing and physically demanding parts in the woodwind section. It is a sobering thought that after this physically demanding Prelude, musicians accompanying the whole opera still have another four hours or so ahead of them!! However, tonight the piece created a really rousing finale to a great evening of music making, which was fully appreciated by a packed hall.

It is very reassuring for the future of music making in this country when one attends such an occasion as Saturday and sees an orchestra comprising players of all ages from teenagers upwards, making wonderful music in combination with a large and successful choral society, and alongside one of the world’s finest soloists.

M.J.L. 28th November 2011

 

29th November 2008 - A VAUGHAN WILLIAMS PILGRIMAGE

2008 has seen a plethora of concerts throughout the land commemorating the 50th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ death, and naturally the Folkestone and Hythe Orchestra wished to make its contribution to the celebration of this visionary composer.

The Society’s winter concert opened with “The Wasps” overture, a frenetic number in which R.V.W. brilliantly interprets the humour of Aristophanes’ Greek comedy – a characteristic not lost by a carefully articulated performance under the eagle eye of the conductor Andrew Lowen.

The fifth symphony given in the second half was completed during the dark days of the second world war and whether its largely pastoral quality is because of, or in spite of that conflict, we can only speculate. One thing is certain, the orchestra faired well in the jaunty scherzo while leader Floriane Peycelon’s poignant soaring violin solo contributed to the timeless nature of the Romanza before the radiant Passacaglia heralded the valediction of an otherworldly masterpiece.

Paganini always provides fireworks and as a curious “sandwich filler” an account of his lengthy D major violin concerto featured a much talented 15 year old Jian Ren dazzling the large and appreciative audience with astonishing technique and virtuosity.

A.K.H.

 

28th June 2008 - NORTHERN LIGHTS

On almost the longest day of the year the Folkestone and Hythe Orchestra turned to the land of the Midnight Sun for an inspirational summer concert of music by two Scandinavian ‘Greats’ – Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius. As an aperitif, however, the audience was treated to ‘Praeludium’, a catchy lyrical piece by Armas Jarnefelt from 1907.

Eight character or mood pieces from Grieg’s incidental theatre music for Ibsen’s play ‘Peer Gynt’ included an intoxicating ‘Arabian Dance’ while ‘Anitra’s Dance’ displayed delicate shifting textures before the grotesque but exciting ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ brought a shattering conclusion to the first half of the programme.

Conductor Andrew Lowen and the Orchestra indispensably led by Floriane Peycelon excelled in their tense reading of the Sibelius Second Symphony – a granite-like structure where the composer discards any Tchaikovskian rhetoric that influences the first symphony and becomes his own man!  The opening wayward Allegretto always presents a challenge to both player and listener which is ultimately resolved.  The desolate grandeur of the second movement drew carefully articulated contributions from all sections and the breathtaking transition from the Scherzo to final Allegretto was simply tremendous.

A.K.H.

 

5th April 2008 - CAPITAL HAYDN

A classical programme built around two late 18th century masterworks graced the Folkestone and Hythe Orchestra’s Spring concert.

Beethoven’s Coriolan overture that opened the evening was full of drama under Andrew Lowen’s direction, splendidly conveying the heroic nature of the piece.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 reflects a more dark and tragic mood than its predecessors – maybe a foreshadow of Beethoven’s symphonic style.  Katherine Tinker proved an accomplished soloist throughout the performance creating sensitive interplay with the wind section, while a simple stillness in the Larghetto brought a welcome contrast to the dramatic outer movements.

During the 1790’s Joseph Haydn, the Father of the Symphony, embarked on two protracted but very fruitful visits to England responding with the twelve so-called London Symphonies.  This delightful concert concluded with possibly the most famous and majestic of the group – No. 104.  The sizeable audience was treated to an interpretation that really came to life with a spirited finale suggesting the London street sellers cry “Hot Cross Buns”.

A.K.H.

 

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