Wessex Concert Orchestra at Malmesbury Abbey on April 28

Review by Jamie Hancock BMus Royal Holloway and MMus Goldsmiths

THE well established Wessex Concert Orchestra, under the baton of Tim Harrison and lead by first violinist, Nicola Ashton, performed a spring concert of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. This took place in Malmesbury Abbey, an architectural gem with a rich, reverberant acoustic. Perfect for those lush orchestral textures.

The concert opened with a confident rendition of Mozart’s overture from The Magic Flute (K. 620) opera, 1791. The work often draws on the full forces of the orchestra to punctuate its themes, especially with the growing crescendo towards the end. This performance remained positively resolute throughout.

To follow was the highlight of the concert, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, 1801. Max Li, a young prodigy, was the soloist.

The interaction between conductor, soloist and orchestra was sensitive and, all combined, made for a gracious performance.

Li’s touch was fluid, dexterous and virtuosic.

He has such facility. Li received a standing ovation, testament to this stunning achievement at the age of 15. He is certainly one to watch for the future.

For an encore Li played Paganini Jazz by Turkish composer Fazil Say. Both pieces Li committed to memory.

The concert closed with Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in D Major, 1877. This was the most challenging piece for the orchestra.

The second movement, Adagio non troppo, for example, is exposed with the main theme at the opening largely being played by the cellos.

The players kept it together. The orchestra did justice to the final movement, Allegro con spirito, which becomes a strong forte and has a triumphant ending to finish the work.

One can see links between these three great composers and come to see continuity in the programme.

According to the programme notes, Mozart is a composer Beethoven hoped to learn from and Brahms worried he would never match Beethoven.

The works by these three composers were presented in chronological order: Mozart being Classical, Beethoven being late Classical/early Romantic and Brahms being Romantic.

The music, large and appreciative audience and the setting made for an uplifting and fulfilling experience.