THE BRITTEN SINFONIA
M&G Concert at the Civic Theatre
Opening the new M&G concert season, a welcome return for the Britten Sinfonia, regular visitors here over their nineteen year history. They brought us a programme less interesting than the one they chose to open their subscription series this month in Cambridge, Norwich and London, but nonetheless varied and satisfying. Performed with the usual passion and flair.
“All our chamber music suffers in the concert hall from the inappropriateness of the space,” Gustav Mahler told a journalist. So he re-worked some of his favourite quartets for full orchestra. One such arrangement, of Schubert's Death and the Maiden, was only recently unearthed, and it formed the centrepiece of Sunday's concert.
An intense reading, with the inexorable elemental forces well suggested in the finale, and the emphatic sonorities of the Andante showing Mahler's hand most clearly.
A definite chamber music feel to the rest of the programme, too. A sparkling, tightly focused Mozart Divertimento to start, and Vivaldi's Four Seasons coming up fresh, under Thomas Gould's inspirational direction. His interpretation of the solo violin part had an exciting freedom of expression, encouraging his virtuoso colleagues to live their roles, sweltering or shivering in the Italian countryside.
This is programme music par excellence, and it would have been nice to have enough light to read the helpful notes. And though we appreciate our interval drink, the sounds of their preparation and disposal can easily ruin a pianissimo passage ...