Review — Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra in Concert

at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon – 17th March 2018

Conductor: Phil Draisey ∙ Leader: Carmen Tunney ∙ Soloist: Jacob Byrne

Here’s a first — reviewing a classical music concert. Behind food, music is probably my greatest love. All genres including jazz, classic rock, soul and reggae. Classical is my favourite. I had occasion to visit Wiltshire a couple of weeks back and, with the demand for a variety of content, including that concerning music, entertainment and events, I thought here would be a good place to start.

Photo credit: Dan Gibson

Putting an American and two Russians in the same room these days is likely to lead to a highly volatile situation. Or it may be the start of a joke… “An American and two Russians walk into a bar…” — I’ll let you come up with your own punchlines for that one…

What it does make for is a highly ambitious and entertaining musical programme. The show, which was sold out on a very snowy St. Patrick’s Day, opened with a full performance of the Jazz Suite #2 by Dmitri Shostakovich. You’ll know the famous waltz when you hear it – it’s unmistakable.

It was a strange feeling listening to this music. Half the time, with the resonant string sections, one felt transported to Russia of the era of the Tsars and the grandeur of the Romanovs. Like you were standing in the ballroom of one of the imperial palaces. On the other hand, however, with the dominant brass sounds, it was like being by the seaside near the bandstand. Saxophones drowned out the trombones in places, but otherwise a uniform performance.

Following that, a piano was wheeled out and in with it came the evening’s soloist, Jacob Byrne. This was to play George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue – a piece where classical and jazz start to meld into one. From the opening clarinet solo. For the film buffs among the readership, this may ring a few bells from Woody Allen’s Manhatten. Close your eyes and you might find yourself in downtown New York. The loneliness suggested by the noticeable silence and drop in atmosphere with every piano solo from Byrne could just as well set the scene of a Neo-Noir movie.

Byrne demonstrated his skills as a musician, and conductor Phil Draisey did the same on the piano for the first of two encores. Byrne had transposed Gershwin’s Chinese Blues for piano duet, with the conductor serving as his second. A solo piece from Debussy followed.

Personally, I have never been fond of Rimsky-Korsakov’s music. You may recognise Flight of the Bumblebee upon hearing it, but arguably one of his most famous pieces is Scheherazade. If you’re not aware, Scheherazade is the narrator of the One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, the stories that also gave us Aladdin, Sinbad and Ali Baba. Chaos, fire and drama – all were brought out in the TSO’s rendition. So much so that I may well have been converted to enjoy the piece.

Well, rumour has it, they’re having a Movie Music concert sometime in the future — I personally can’t wait.