Cambridge Philharmonic Society
St John’s College, Cambridge
Saturday 18th October 2014
Cambridge Philharmonic began their 2014−2015 series of seven concerts with an explosion of energy and confidence in a short concert lasting just over an hour of works by Vivaldi. As a taster of what is to come this must surely have inspired many in the audience to put the other concert dates in their diaries.
The venue was a first for the Philharmonic, a small rather hot theatre in the Fisher Building, St John’s College, with steeply raked seats excellent for both seeing and hearing, and with hardly a seat free. First, conductor Tim Redmond broke through that curtain that sometimes seems to separate performers from listeners by talking to the audience about the background to the Vivaldi pieces.
The first item on the programme was, appropriately, Autumn from The Four Seasons. The small ensemble of string players accompanied solo violinist Alexandra Reid with sensitivity, all keenly listening to and responding to each other. Vivian Williams (continuo cello) and Harry Sever (chamber organ) watched Alexandra like hawks fitting the light touch of their continuo accompaniment to her tempo and interpretation. In the whole of Autumn there was light and shade, forceful attack and whispering pianissimo, and Alexandra seemed to smile the whole time as she led and responded to her fellow musicians.
Next came two choral works, Vivaldi’s Magnificat and Gloria, which also featured the same chamber ensemble and in parts piccolo trumpet, oboe and two sopranos and a mezzo-soprano. The sizeable choir assembled on the somewhat small stage. Silence. Then a sudden wall of sound blasted out: Magnificat! The work continued, overwhelming in its energy and commitment, showing that the piece had been thoroughly learnt and understood and the varying changes of mood and unexpected harmonies anticipated. A sweet and well-blended sound came from all sections of the chorus. The three young soloists, Harriet Eyley, Alys Roberts and Anna Harvey, all at the beginning of their professional careers, were a delight to listen to.
The Vivaldi Gloria concluded the programme, and showed the same buoyancy and attack, the chorus and soloists revelling in the jaunty rhythms and the interweaving of the different parts. The chorus, though large, was well supported by the chamber orchestra. One of the main impressions of this evening’s uplifting performance was the sense of joy in the auditorium: those on stage were obviously really enjoying themselves and this was conveyed to the audience who responded with enthusiastic and prolonged applause.
Notes for editors
Cambridge Philharmonic, founded in 1887, is one of Britain’s oldest and most distinguished music societies. With a full symphony orchestra and a large chorus, the Cambridge Philharmonic presents an annual concert series in King’s College Chapel, Ely Cathedral and the West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge.
Cambridge Philharmonic works with an enviable roster of soloists, including in recent seasons, instrumentalists such as Natalie Clein, Alison Balsom, Mark Simpson and Martin Roscoe and singers Joan Rodgers, Emma Bell, Roderick Williams and Jacques Imbrailo. This has been a long tradition of the Philharmonic and in previous decades, artists including Philip Langridge, Peter Pears, Philip Jones and Kathleen Ferrier all performed with the society. Principal and guest conductors have included Sir David Willcocks, Stephen Cleobury, Raymond Leppard and Thomas Adès.
Under their current principal conductor and music director, Timothy Redmond, the Cambridge Philharmonic has developed and expanded its repertoire to include annual opera performances, family concerts and a focus on contemporary music. Critically-acclaimed performances of repertoire as diverse as Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Bernstein’s Candide, Verdi’s La Traviata and Mahler’s Second Symphony have given the Cambridge Philharmonic a profile that extends far beyond its home town.
In addition to its regular performances in the UK, the Cambridge Philharmonic has appeared at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and Prague’s Rudolfinum Concert Hall. The Cambridge Philharmonic Orchestra reached an even wider audience when they recorded Ryan Teague’s album Coins and Crosses, which has been featured on BBC radio and TV and heard on radio stations worldwide.
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