The Sherfield Building was filled with the sound of music last night as Imperial College Sinfonietta held their annual Winter Concert, under the lead of conductor Daniel Capps. The concert was held in the Great Hall, with a very large turnout.
The evening began with four episodes from the ballet Rodeo, written by Aaron Copland. The piece was designed to tell a tale of a young cowgirl who attempts to attract the attentions of the head wrangler on a ranch, however his interests apparantly lie elsewhere. Although designed to be performed as a ballet, the piece was so enthusiastically played by the orchestra that the storyline was instantly believable, even without the visual interpretation which would normally be provided with this piece. For example; in the opening scene, Buckaroo Holiday, the cowgirl tries to attract the attention of the wrangler by mimicking the cowboys on the ranch. This was cleverly and carefully depicted by an interchange between the different instruments where the string instruments and the brass and wind instruments mimicked each other.
The piece then moved to the second scene (Corral Nocturne, with the string instruments playing a more steady and woeful tune as the cowgirl in the story finds herself lovesick and unloved. This was very elegantly conducted by Capps, who then really came into his own for the final two scenes of the piece - Saturday Night Waltz and Hoe Down. As the names of these scenes suggest, the girl in the story managed to find love and as a result we were treated to two brilliantly jolly pieces of music, powerfully held together by Capps and energetically played by everyone on stage. This built up to a magnificent finish, which represented the kiss between the two young lovers in the story.
The next piece to be played at this year's concert was Francis Poulenc's Flute Sonata. This was originally a solo piece, but was orchestrated by composer Lennox Berkeley. The piece was played by soloist Hannah Barriga on the flute, complemented by the wonderful sounds of the orchestra. One gentleman in the audience commented that Ms Barriga's decade of experience and practice in playing the flute really showed.
The second half of the performance brought what appeared to be the most anticipated piece of the night; Sibelius' Symphony No.2 in D. The first movement of the symphony is a very fragmented section, with many different instruments playing at many different times. The conductor clearly needed to concentrate very carefully, and was followed by all of the musicians with a similar level of accuracy to ensure the perfect timing of the piece. The second movement began with a strange duet between the drums and the double bass which then launched a slow trickle of other instruments adding to the sounds until there was a waterfall of melodies cascading over our ears as the full orchestra played. This was followed by instant slience brought about swiftly by the conductor, who was then able to bring the entire orchestra back to full volume with impeccable timing. In the fourth (and last) movement of the piece, the brass were given their chance to stand out as they helped to bring the night to a close with the fantastic conclusion thanks to one last burst of energy that would have made Sibelius very proud indeed.
The performances did reflect just how much practice and sheer determination went into preparing the evening, with all of the musicians playing exceptionally well. This was especially evident in the strings section. There were a few minor problems in the percussion section in the first piece, however they managed to redeem themselves later on.
Overall, the night was a great success. This could be judged by the reaction of the audience who gave the Sinfonietta and Mr Capps a seemingly never-ending round of applause. Speaking to Live!, Imperial Student Christopher Fonseka said that it "was a thrilling display of one of Sibelius' finest". Matthew Darby, another student who had friends performing in the orchestra, described the night as a "triumph for all involved". I'm sure that there are already lots of people eagerly awaiting the next appearance of Sinfonietta...