Archive for October 16th, 2011
I went to hear the Kensington Chamber Orchestra’s first concert of the season on Saturday 15 October. The KCO has a great reputation but this was the first time I had heard the orchestra – and they lived up to their billing as one of the top amateur orchestras in London.
I was drawn by the premiere of Danyal Dhondy’s In Other Words, a new commission from the orchestra’s resident composer. Before that we heard a committed performance of Barber’s Violin Concerto, which was by turns rhapsodic and scintillating. The strings in particular made light of the extreme challenges of the last movement, as did the soloist, Lukas Medlam, as the music careered to a brilliant conclusion.
Dhondy’s new piece was a 15-minute work in three movements which, in the composer’s words, ’shares something with the overtures and tone poems of the nineteenth-century’. His previous works for the KCO have been for their children’s concerts, but this was proper grown-up music. The scoring was beautifully judged, from the moment the piece eased into life, with solo spots passed around the woodwind. The harmony was tonally-tinged and sharply defined, colourful but restrained. After two slow movements the most memorable music came in the third, which swung between John Adams-style rhythmic patterning and wonderfully lush, almost Bergian, harmonies in the strings. The piece was captivating and exquisitely performed, and deserved its enthusiastic reception.
The finale was a romp through Haydn’s Symphony no. 97, led irresistibly by the charismatic Tom Seligman. The performance oozed energy and joy, particularly in the wittily mannered minuet. A couple of minor slips in the strings in the final movement did not detract from a joyful reading of the symphony to cap a splendidly enjoyable concert. I will be back to hear more.