Monday, November 05, 2007

Milton Keynes Sinfonia concert

5 November 2007

Last weekend I played with Milton Keynes Sinfonia in a concert which included Elgar's Symphony No. 1. I can usually take or leave Elgar but the first symphony is a great piece of music - you can hear why listeners to its original performances in 1908 felt that England had finally produced a composer who could bear comparison with the great Germanic symphonists. The first movement opens with a beautiful, slow, typical Elgarian tune with a gentle, plodding accompaniment. Throughout the movement - and those that follow - just when you have been sufficiently distracted to forget the opening, this theme returns again and again as if it has never stopped going. It's like a few players have been shut in a separate room to play this quiet tune continuously and every now and again we open the door to check they are still there. Meanwhile, while the door is closed, we are taken on a mammoth emotional journey with grand climaxes reminiscent of Brahms or Wagner but always distinctively Elgar - as the omnipresent opening them constantly reminds us. Great fun to play - a great piece of music. The first half of the concert saw Timothy Short play the Piano Concerto in G major by Ravel - and incredibly ambitious piece, parts of which sound like they could have been written by Gershwin, and a virtuosic performance by Short.

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