Monday, March 08, 2010


Essex Symphony Orchestra at Christ Church


The Essex Symphony often invites a singer as soloist. So this time we had Polish American soprano Pamela Hay, and, where the concerto would be, three of Mozart's Concert arias. The sumptuous lullaby Ruhe Sanft was followed by the dramatic Non so d'onde, which really showed the full power of her voice, and finally Aloysia Weber's charming farewell to her fans, Nehmt meinen Dank.

The other composer, who like Mozart died in poverty, was Jean Sibelius.

First, his familiar tone poem, the Swan of Tuonela. This atmospheric evocation of the Finnish underworld featured a plaintive cor anglais, and wonderfully emotive string playing.

The symphony was his second. The strings were very impressive again here, especially in the irresistible Finale, and the scampering Scherzo. The brass, too, were on superb form, horns and winds dialoguing in the first movement. The sweep and grandeur of the piece were well suggested, and we were all caught up in the power of the sounds, the emotion of the occasion.

This excellent concert, with the ESO led by Philippa Barton, was conducted by Tom Hammond, who also talked persuasively about the Mozart songs, and about his reasons for programming these two composers together.

photograph of Pamela Hay by John Stone

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