Autumn Concert - Saturday 6th November 2021
Beethoven - Egmont Overture
Stravinsky - Symphonies of Wind Instruments
Elgar — Cello Concerto
- Soloist: Molly Parsons-Gurr
Dvorak - Symphony No. 8 in G major
The Nye Hall,
Duke of York's Military School,
Folkestone Symphony has built a substantial audience from its local community for its orchestral concerts because of the quality of its music making. It was rewarding to see so many people prepared to travel to the Nye Hall of Duke of York’s RM School at Dover to enjoy its first event following the hiatus caused by Covid-19. The concert of Beethoven, Stravinsky, Elgar and Dvorak on 6 November did not disappoint; rather, it further enhanced Folkestone Symphony’s reputation. Though nominally an amateur group, in reality there is more than a sprinkling of professional players in its ranks, and the quality of execution is such that the audience can easily focus on the music confident that technical issues like tuning and ensemble are being competently handled. The experienced and excellent conductor, Rupert Bond, has developed the orchestra to a point where technical standards are exemplary and audience enjoyment of the artistic results can be guaranteed.
The Nye Hall at Dover brought the advantage that the players had sufficient room and could obviously hear each other. The strings were on floor level and the woodwind, brass and timpani on the stage. The slight disadvantage was that, from my tiered seat in a row about half-way back, the arrangement favoured the woodwind, so that they tended to dominate in tutti passages and solos were unnecessarily prominent. In contrast, the timpani were rather distant and lacked impact. Balance was the only significant issue that was capable of improvement; the strings, particularly the cells and basses needed rather more weight, at least as heard from my seat. But this hardly distracted from the overall pleasure and excitement from live performance.
The least familiar item on the programme was Stravinsky’s ‘Symphonies of Wind Instruments’. Rupert Bond’s brief spoken introduction using the hall’s good PA system wisely prepared the audience for the rather strange sound world employed. In the following Elgar ‘Cello Concerto’ the accomplished soloist was Molly Parsons-Gurr. Few could have been aware that she was playing a borrowed instrument because her own cello had been damaged recently. Nevertheless, Molly was well capable of projecting her solo part against the orchestral accompaniment. The score contains a few tricky moments for the orchestra, requiring an alertness among players that is difficult to achieve in rehearsals in the absence of the soloist, but almost all of these were well negotiated; the occasional missed entry was soon recovered without major mishap.
Beethoven ‘Egmont’ Overture and Dvorak ‘Symphony 8’ are both familiar orchestral territory. Orchestras like playing them, and it showed on this occasion. The speed changes in ‘Egmont’ were expertly handled. The Dvorak brought out perhaps the most confident and relaxed playing of the evening, with the strings at times achieving a degree of resonance that brought particular delight to this listener. Clearly Dvorak’s scoring allows the singing tones of violas and cellos to excel, and the important woodwind solos were easily heard. The second movement in particular was an absolute delight. In the third movement the upper strings were exemplary in handling their material. In the final movement, the splendid brass section came into its own, and the concluding passages were fiery and exciting, with all sections of the orchestra contributing.
This concert raised the bar of what Folkestone Symphony has achieved yet again.
Dr. Berkeley Hill