Sunday, March 22, 2009


The Essex Symphony Orchestra at Christ Church


Starting with a tiny trickle, the source of the Vltava, and ending with the mighty struggle of the wind and the waves, Justin Doyle and the Essex Symphony Orchestra took us on a water-borne journey, navigated by five composers.

Besides Bohemia, we sailed the grim grey North Sea, the Med at Capri, the Loing near Fontainebleau and the Channel off Eastbourne.

Smetana's great poem was superbly played, with noble strings and brass, and nimble dances on the riverside.
The Delius, Summer Night on the River, despite some evocative woodwind playing, never quite achieved the gossamer texture this music needs. The bracing Britten, though, was very successfully caught, especially in the glacial dawn opening, and the brass-rich storm at the end, with its tantalising moments of calm.

The ESO's guest leader for this concert was Philippa Barton, and the soloist was mezzo Clare McCaldin, who gave us a powerful set of Sea Pictures, with the orchestra making the most of the great surges of Elgarian melody. And the evening ended with Debussy's familiar evocation of the sea in all its moods, especially impressive in the closing elemental dialogue.

This was Justin's last concert with the ESO before he leaves for Opera North, and in lieu of an encore, he joined Clare in a Grossmith ditty, referencing many of the motifs from the programme, and aptly titled Baby on the Shore.

Were this Radio 3, we should be begging you to text or email your suggestions for an actual encore for this themed concert. So why not add a comment - costs nothing, can be anonymous . Maybe "Calm Seas and a Prosperous Voyage" for Justin, or, my favourite, Arnold's Padstow Lifeboat ...

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