Reviews 2013/14

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In celebration of the bi-centenary of Verdi’s birth, the Tonbridge Philharmonic Society chose his Requiem for its November concert.  We are indeed fortunate in Tonbridge to have a society with both a choir and an orchestra large enough and sufficiently talented to present music on such a scale.  The grandeur of Tonbridge School Chapel makes a fitting setting for such a work, even facilitating the dramatic effect of antiphonal brass.


Both choir and orchestra were on fine form.  The confidence engendered by performing a work which is well known was apparent, and this helped to create both the over-whelming power and the sensitive expression required by such colourful music - music akin to the graphic portrayal of the Last Judgment shown in wall paintings in old churches.  The warmth of tone produced by the orchestra, especially in its accompaniment role for the four soloists, was partly the result of the players having worked together for so long, and under the leadership of Penelope Howard, who has occupied that vital role for twenty years. This was her last concert with the Society, and the conductor, Robin Morrish, gave a warm and heartfelt tribute to her inspirational work and musicianship in his concluding speech.


Robin Morrish’s notable rapport with the choir encouraged precision in the complex fugal passages and subtle control of dynamic expression in the lyrical sections.


There was a fine team of soloists and it was fortuitous that their vocal timbres achieved such a beautiful blend, because so much of the Requiem presents the solo voices in duet, trio or quartet form rather than as extended single vocal lines.  The line-up of Tamara Ravenhill (soprano), Susan Legg (mezzo), Iain Milne (tenor) and Lancelot Nomura (bass) made a strong team which captured the beauty and pathos of the text and music expressed through Verdi’s ensembles.  Their style of performance tended towards the devotional rather the operatic, and this seemed appropriate for a performance in Chapel.  Their musicianship and rapport with one another were evident throughout this great work.


The large and supportive audience responded warmly to this heartfelt performance which so strongly reflected the personal commitment and vision of Robin Morrish.  We should be truly grateful for the expertise given so generously by our local musicians to uplift and inspire us.


Roger Evernden


Orchestral & Choral Concert  - 23 November 2013 - Tonbridge School Chapel

Orchestral  Concert  - 15 February 2014  St.Stephen’s Church, Tonbridge

Beethoven - Overture: ‘Coriolan’

Mozart - ‘Exsultate, Jubilate’:  soprano Caroline Walshaw

Mozart - Concerto for Flute and Harp:  Flute Alison Aries, Harp Anna Wynne

Beethoven - Symphony No. 2 in D major


The orchestra of the Tonbridge Philharmonic Society was back in St Stephen’s Church in Tonbridge for this well-structured programme of late classical works by Mozart and Beethoven.  The refurbished space in the church is a marvellous venue, where the sound can shine but without so great an echo that all detail is lost.  It is attention to detail that is paramount in works of this period.


The concert, conducted by Michael Hitchcock, opened with Beethoven’s popular Overture ‘Coriolan’ written for a performance of a play in 1807.  It is by no means an easy ride as the elements of pride, betrayal and conflicting emotions are intricately tied together.  After a slightly nervy start, the orchestra gave a good account of the shifting tensions.


Local soprano, Caroline Walshaw, joined the orchestra for Mozart’s much-loved concert aria ‘Exsultate, jubilate’, originally written for the celebrated Roman castrato singer, Venanzio Rauzzini, in 1772. Caroline performed with a calm and assured mien throughout, showing her experience in handling the bravura sections.


Principal TPS flautist, Alison Aries, and regular TPS harp soloist, Anna Wynne, closed the first half of the concert with the Concerto for Flute and Harp by Mozart.  Aged 22, Mozart famously disliked the flute, was not keen on the harp and despised the then fashionable salon music, churned out by the mile to give the well-to-do audiences something to be seen at.  However,   he liked lucrative commissions more and has left us a more than decent body of flute works,    of which this is the most popular.  It brims with good tunes and plays on the delicacy of both instruments very well indeed.  The orchestra showed its credentials as an accompanying orchestra (it regularly plays for its choral sister in the organisation) allowing the interplay of the two softly-spoken solo voices to be heard.


The final piece was Beethoven’s masterful early Symphony in D major written in 1802.  He was taking music forward into the romantic styles of the 19th century and introducing ideas and methods not heard before.  It requires a more muscular approach and the orchestra and conductor proved themselves equal to this, engaging the audience through the developing movements and the dramatic sweep of the 4-movement whole.  It was as if, their duties to the soloists done, the orchestra could now let itself go and enjoy itself.  The audience certainly did, giving lengthy and enthusiastic applause for a job well done.


 Sara Kemsley

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