A couple of weeks ago I reported on the excellent Kensington Chamber Orchestra, and last night heard the less lauded but also impressive Sinfonia Tamesa, at a packed St John’s in Waterloo. Conducted by Tom Hammond (who, I should acknowledge, is a past and, I hope, future collaborator of mine), it was an interesting programme: four short items in the first half balanced by Tchaikovsky’s substantial Fifth Symphony in the second. After a slightly tentative start with Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre, which never quite took flight, there were lovely performances of Ravel’s Pavane pour une infant défunte – built on a beautiful horn solo by Jeremy Garside – and Sibelius’ Valse Triste, with the strings on good form, carefully following Hammond’s sensitive rubato. The half ended with Tchaikovsky’s Valse des Fleurs from the Nutcracker, in which the whole orchestra was plainly having a great time.
But the highlight of the programme was undoubtedly Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. This was the first time I had heard the piece in concert (being a bit too mainstream for my usual concert tastes), although I am familiar with it from Christoph Eschenbach’s excellent 2006 Philadelphia Orchestra recording. I was carried along throughout by the orchestra’s range of colour and Tom Hammond’s ability to shape the large-scale architecture of the piece. The slow opening was suitably haunting, gravid and weighty, opening out into the powerful tuttis which were a feature of the whole symphony. The second movement started with another superb horn solo but was dominated by some excellent string playing in the climactic repetition of the central tune. The third movement, picked out in the conductor’s programme notes as the heard of the piece was competently handled, with the tricky cross-rhythms all safely negotiated – leaving only the restlessly energetic finale, a workout for the strings but the opportunity for some thrilling brass playing.
Congratulations must go to all involved in a terrific evening of music. Judging by my recent forays, the world of amateur orchestral music-making is in a hearteningly healthy state.