Monday, December 03, 2018

Milton Keynes Sinfonia concert

3 December 2018

When I played Gustav Mahler’s ‘Symphony No 1’ with Northampton Symphony Orchestra in 2016, I wrote here (in March 2016) that, for horn players, tackling a Mahler symphony is the equivalent of running a marathon, requiring extensive training to build your stamina. I said then “it was a brilliant experience but one I would be happy not to repeat for a while!” Well, just over two and a half years later, I was thrilled to get the chance to do it again, this time with Milton Keynes Sinfonia at a concert at the Chrysalis Theatre in Milton Keynes last Saturday. This concert was a musical trip to Vienna, opening with Franz Lehar’s overture to ‘The Merry Widow’, followed by Mahler’s orchestral song cycle ‘Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen’ (Songs of a Wayfarer’, sung by the impressive young British baritone, Andrew Hamilton. It was fascinating to hear the songs, the melodies of two of which Mahler also uses in the first and third movements of his First Symphony. The concert was dominated by that Symphony – a dramatic, grandiose, programmatic, playful and powerful epic. Given the stamina and concentration required to perform it, it’s amazing to realise that it is actually one of Mahler’s shortest symphonies. It was great fun to be part of a strong team of nine horn players, wonderfully led by Kate Knight: at one of the rehearsals we outnumbered the first violins! In the concert, when we reached the climax at the end of the first movement, with all nine of us playing together, I thought to myself “this is going to be brilliant!”. It was really enjoyable to be able to play the symphony without the stress of worrying about the first horn solos – which Kate played beautifully. Our conductor, David Knight, coaxed a thrilling performance from the large orchestra and Jenny Brown’s double bass solo at the beginning of the slow movement was exquisite. But it is the finale that will live long in my memory with the horn chorus soaring triumphantly over the orchestra: it was so exciting to be a part of it.

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