Sunday, February 01, 2009


M&G Concert at the Civic, Chelmsford


The Britten Sinfonia, always a highlight of the M&G season, surpassed themselves this time with a programme they'd called The Lyrical Oboe.

The instrument in question was in the hands of Nicholas Daniel, who generously gave us no fewer than three concertos.

Vivaldi first, with its “trillion notes” and darkly dramatic, middle movement. Then, just before the interval, the dreamy, autumnal Vaughan Williams. Written for Leon Goossens, it's a demanding piece, but one Daniel has made his own – it was the work he played almost thirty years ago when he won the BBC Young Musician. We marvelled again at his breath control, the blend of intimacy and distance, and the pianissimo melodic line hovering in thin air. Magical.

To end the concert, the oboe was joined by the violin of the Sinfonia's co-leader Thomas Gould for Bach's Concerto BWV 1060. Flawless phrasing, especially in the Adagio, and an easy empathy between these two superb musicians, made this a sublime climax to the evening.

Britten's Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, and Shostakovich's Two Pieces for String Octet, with the Scherzo line chasing round the semi-circle, completed a typical varied Britten Sinfonia offer.

photograph of Thomas Gould by Sussie Ahlburg

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