The 'neo-classicists' first - and a pair of jesters
they were too. Stravinsky's Pulcinella suite
may open with a stately sinfonia, but what
follows shows off his virtuosity as an orchestrator,
Sir Neville Marriner taking great enjoyment in his pointing up of the trombone glissandi in the vivo and the
trumpet shriek with which the tarantella ends.
Meanwhile David Theodore's keen oboe solo in
the serenata was quietly moving, and a scrappy
link to the finale aside, this was a performance of
wit and sensitivity. Woodwind in particular were first
Respighi's pictorial Birds suite fared even
better, like Stravinsky drawing from the music of
earlier composers which the sketchy booklet note
failed to name. The hen clucked impatiently through
the first violins, while there were comical,
floundering phrases on bassoon and lower strings, the
instruments seemingly competing to see who could make
the funniest noise.
Meanwhile the stickiness of a warm
summer night was perfectly captured by the basses,
allowing the composer to work his magic with a
wonderful nightingale line for flute, Andrew
Nicholson's big moment. Lastly the cuckoo, his two
note phrase flitting around the orchestra, the players
revelling in Respighi's evocative scoring.
The two overtures remained in the shadow of these
sparkling scores. Mendelssohn's Hebrides could
have done with a bigger orchestra's ability to make
more of the sea spray the opening conveys. Marriner's
ocean had a glassy clarity, with many fine moments - a
beautifully hushed clarinet solo the peak. The approach waters to the end were stormy, but the problem of size remained, albeit in the background.
Meanwhile Rossini's Il Turco in Italia
overture closed the concert on an upbeat note, the
horn solo of the introduction perfectly played and the
orchestra's characteristic rush to the end managed
tastefully by Marriner, even if he missed some of the
humour evident elsewhere. At the end we wanted more -
and nearly got it - but went away suitably uplifted
for the weekend after a highly enjoyable hour.