The Imperial College Symphony Orchestra is known for performing concerts of an extremely high standard, and this was certainly not going to disappoint the expectant audience. Skilfully directed by Richard Dickens, the challenging programme included works from Berlioz, Sibelius, Larsson and Tchaikovsky.
The Roman Carnival Overture is amongst the most popular works of Hector Berlioz, written with music rescued from his failed opera, Benvenuto Cellini. After a dramatic introduction, the piece opens out into a moving love theme, sympathetically performed by Charles Craddock on the cor anglais. The subsequent Allegro showed the sheer brilliance of the string section in this orchestra, who met the brass to bring the overture to a close.
Jean Sibelius' 'Finlandia' is another popular tune, instantly recognisable to the audience by the colossal opening brass and percussion crescendo. Written in a Finland oppressed by Tsarist Russia, the piece has become as big a symbol of pride and patriotism to the Finnish as Elgar's Pomp &
Circumstance is to the British. The whole orchestra soon join in to race towards the majestic and exquisitely executed woodwind chorale. Although the brass section seemed to lose coordination in the rhythmic middle sections, they later returned in triumph to end the piece in style.
The presentation of the Concertino for Trombone by Lars-Erik Larsson saw most of the orchestra leave only a handful of strings to accompany the solo trombonist, Douglas Murdoch. The resulting balance was excellent, and the piece, written in 1957, stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the programme. The talented soloist made light work of the many challenging cadenzas of the first movement, and ably drove the music on through a quieter Aria to the confident theme of the finale.
Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony brought the concert to an end with some of the most demanding music and finest performances of the evening. The interesting orchestration lets the Violas lead most of the first movement, and this rarely-exposed section of the orchestra accomplished this superbly. The piece progresses through an unusual waltz in 5/4 time, to an excited and technically challenging Allegro Molto Vivace. The finale ends the symphony with beautifully expansive string sections, which ultimately die away into nothingness.
The exceptional string sections were the driving force behind this crowd-pleasing concert. It was unfortunate that the Celli were at times weak in their exposed sections, and the conductor occasionally struggled to control the brass in others, but the overall standard of the orchestra was outstanding. Both violin sections were terrific and notable soloists from the woodwind included Timothy Perutz (Clarinet) and Christopher Cooper (Bassoon).
The orchestra's audiences now have the spring concert to look forward to, which is to include Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. No doubt it will be as brilliant as ever.