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HomeOperaOxford Philharmonic’s anniversary celebrations proceed with Brahms, Bruckner and extra – Seen...

Oxford Philharmonic’s anniversary celebrations proceed with Brahms, Bruckner and extra – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United Kingdom Brahms, Mendelssohn, Jieun Lee and Bruckner: Jennifer Pike (violin), Lauren Fagan (soprano), Claudia Huckle (contralto), David Junghoon Kim (tenor) Simon Shibambu (bass), Choirs of Merton and The Queen’s Faculties, Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra / Marios Papadopoulos and Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey (conductors). Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford 17.11.2022. (CR)

Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra’s Bruckner Te Deum © Nicholas Posner

Brahms – Educational Competition Overture, Op.80
Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64
Jieun LeeThe Withdrawal
Bruckner – Te Deum

This live performance was a part of the current season marking the twenty fifth anniversary of the inauguration of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra (the Oxford Philomusica because it then was) because the orchestra in residence on the College of Oxford. That, and the very fact they usually play within the Sheldonian Theatre, constructed primarily for the college’s diploma ceremonies, made it applicable to open this live performance with Brahms’s Educational Competition Overture, written after the composer had been awarded an honorary diploma from the college at Breslau (now Wroclaw).

Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey performed an account of the Overture that began sturdily within the quietly furtive opening part however turned brittle subsequently with considerably uncooked brass and timpani tapped with sticks, and foursquare structuring of the varied sections. However pleasure was generated by the conclusion such that the entry by the choirs of Merton and The Queen’s Faculties on ‘Gaudeamus igitur’ was fairly submerged within the glittering flurry of orchestral exercise, so the coed track didn’t come by with as a lot gusto as may have been the case.

The orchestra’s standard conductor, Marios Papadopoulos, took to the rostrum to steer off the orchestra, and Jennifer Pike as soloist, in a sublime sweep for Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. They charted a gentle, flowing course by the primary motion to construct ample momentum for a convincingly delirious coda, with Pike drawing a poised solo line over the orchestra, even when the ascent in octaves (damaged, and as chords) within the first topic was not completely in tune. Within the Andante she sustained the violin half in a extra mellow than singing style, although the general tempo may have been a contact extra relaxed and the oscillating demisemiquavers within the accompaniment gentler in order to make the motion much less hectic. However the finale was convivial, supporting a energetic bonhomie between Pike’s cheerful taking part in on the violin, and skittish, chattering woodwind and strings in dialogue.

As an encore, Pike performed Bacewicz’s Polish Caprice, beginning ruefully in its sluggish, modal opening melody like a folksong, earlier than bursting out with demonic vitality in its quicker concluding part, its vivacity not fairly so straightforwardly joyful because it appears on the floor, because the theme is overlaid with some dissonant acerbity, fairly just like the trenchant model of Ysaÿe in his solo sonatas, the place the music by no means fairly goes the place one expects.

The Withdrawal obtained its world premiere right here, an orchestral piece of about 10 minutes in size, written by Jieun Lee who was not too long ago educated at Oxford. Her programme notes describe this as a story work depicting, at some stage, the course of non-public expertise, retreating from one set of social actions and expectations to a different, reoriented sense of goal and ambitions. Ponchione-Bailey took up the baton once more to direct a lucid efficiency of the tightly argued work, largely obsessing over a scale-like thematic determine. Though pressure was nicely arrange and held all through the work, the character of the work was considerably within the model of a movie rating or a ballet by a Stravinsky or Shostakovich, and consequently the withdrawal expressed gave the impression to be not a lot a matter of existential angst as a sly repositioning of goals and priorities, because the composition ended as tantalisingly inconclusive because it opened.

There isn’t a such indecisiveness or ambiguity in Bruckner’s monumental setting of the Te Deum, a piece which the composer stated he would want to current earlier than the throne of God as an account of himself. The Sheldonian is a troublesome acoustic wherein to attain a passable stability amongst any giant ensemble. For probably the most half Papadopoulos dealt with it nicely sufficient, the brass coming by powerfully with out unduly dominating the opposite sections and, fortunately, mallets now used on the timpani. However there have been instances when some devices, resembling oboe and bassoon, have been uncovered. It was a pity that there was no organ so as to add its extra sustained tones to the general sonic edifice. (Has the Sheldonian’s organ now ceased to operate? Even the digital instrument because it was would have provided some basis, until its situation is now totally past being performed. It appears unlucky that the college doesn’t attempt to reinstate an instrument that was as soon as performed by such musicians as Parry for instance.)

The quartet of vocal soloists introduced an effusive vary of color to the efficiency, not least from tenor David Junghoon Kim, who has the biggest solo position – accustomed as he’s to the operatic repertoire, which added a welcome dramatic dimension to this interpretation. Lauren Fagan provided a golden, celestial radiance within the soprano half, contrasting with Simon Shibambu’s gravelly, huge vibrato within the bass line, leading to solely approximate intonation at some melodic turns.

The youthful voices of the 2 choirs supplied a light-weight, open physique of sound on this daring music, definitely working nicely within the extra meditative moments, the place their streamlined timbre demonstrated the expertise they should have gained in singing the composer’s a cappella motets in chapel companies. Positioned as they have been on the divided stands in the back of the orchestra, nevertheless – sopranos and altos of each choirs to at least one facet of a door, tenors and basses to the opposite – triggered some anomalies in ensemble, together with nearly fatally on the finish, when their ascending scale on ‘non confundar in aeternum’ with none accompaniment to herald the ultimate alla breve part didn’t emerge unanimously, however fairly as if in canon. Luckily, the emphatic fanfare of devices saved the day as they ushered within the in any other case triumphant climax, although it felt a bit hole.

Curtis Rogers

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