The Orion Orchestra at the Cadogan Hall

The Orion Symphony Orchestra was formed for years ago by Toby Purser: its players are young music graduates and students, and its main purpose is to provide a showcase for young musicians and to give them a chance to experience performing in professional situations. Yesterday evening's concert at the Cadogan Hall, in which they were conducted by Toby Purser, gave them a good opportunity to show their mettle.

The programme was a mixed bag, beginning with Benjamin Britten's Suite on English Folk Tunes, and continuing with Five Negro Spirituals from A Child Of Our Time by Michael Tippett. I've not heard the latter work before, and I have to say I was not taken with it: the well-known and simple spirituals seemed over-arranged and rather precious: well performed, though.

The orchestra was joined for the Tippett by the Sonitus Chamber Choir and four soloists, who also performed with them in Vaughan Williams' A Serenade To Music. This was originally scored for orchestra and sixteen soloists but was heard here in the composer's revision for the more practicable forces of orchestra, choir and four soloists. It's a lyrical setting of a love scene from The Merchant of Venice, sometimes sounding rather like Delius but still unmistakably Vaughan Williams.

The most interesting work of the evening was a suite of five extracts from the opera Rothschild's Violin, left incomplete by the Russian composer Veniamin Fleishman when he was killed in 1941 in the Second World War: it was completed by Shostakovich but is rarely heard, so it was interesting to hear the Suite which contains some striking and attractive music.

The orchestra's standard of performance is extremely high - no allowance need be made for the youth of its players - and Shostakovich's 9th Symphony is quite a severe test. When it was composed in 1945 Stalin expected a paen to the glorious victory by the Russian peoples, full of choral bombast. What he got was short, sardonically witty and lively, so Shostakovich's name was mud in official circles (again). Though easy to listen to it places considerable demands on the orchestra: the woodwind section in particular navigated a rapid ensemble section with remarkable precision. Just once, in the very difficult final pages, the string section became a little ragged for a moment, but overall an impressive performance. These are the orchestral players of the future and they deserve to be widely heard.

Posted: Tue - March 31, 2009 at 10:06 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM