Concert Review

Huntingdon Hall, Worcester
4 July 2013

An Espressivo promotion

The saxophone is a versatile instrument! Or so it proved when the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Chamber Winds ensemble came to Huntingdon Hall, Worcester last Thursday evening (4 July) for a programme of works by Richard Strauss, Mozart and Brahms. All three originally used horns, but the richly versatile quartet of saxophones made for a clever alternative!

The programme got off to a good start with the Serenade Op 7 by the youthful Richard Strauss, who at 17 was already revealing his personal voice. The oboist Eric Wolfe-Gordon phrased the opening melody with real characterisation. Next came Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 23 in A major K488 - in a clever version made by Nicholas Reader which eliminated the strings while making you aware that you did not miss them. We were especially fortunate to enjoy the piano playing, not of one of the many highly proficient and immature students which proliferate all the Conservatoires of Britain, but Richard McMahon, the Head of Keyboard at RWCMD and a mature and most accomplished soloist. Performed from memory with total assurance it was a real pleasure to hear the slow movement in particular phrased with real legato and character. All the tempos were spot on and many a younger piano student would have gained much from hearing such artistry.

The Finale of the concert was Brahms’ Serenade in A Op 16 for Small Orchestra – described as ‘Woodwind Serenade’ in the programme. Again, the lower strings were replaced by wind equivalents and credit must be given to Derek Smith, a skilled operator in this sphere, for making this arrangement with “ … no modification or excision of Brahms’ treasured notes”. An ideal Finale to a concert, this work enabled us to enjoy the relaxed, more amiable Brahms, as opposed to the titanic master of four symphonies.

The whole concert was conducted with precision and authority by Meyrick Alexander, making for a highly professional standard from beginning to end, and also making the audience aware of what a high standard of musical performance our music colleges offer to this country. They deserve more of the public’s support - Thursday’s audience looked adequate in Huntingdon Hall, but it could have been better supported: live music is better than Wimbledon any day - Andy Murray notwithstanding!

Michael Jones

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