Review — Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra presents: Nordic Legends

at St. James’ Church, Trowbridge – 17th November 2018

Conductor: Phil Draisey ∙ Leader: Carmen Tunney ∙ Soloist: Rachel Stonham

Photo Credit: Daniel Gibson

Once again, the time has come where I can depart from food and drink for one issue and muse on another love of mine – music.

I had the deep privilege and honour of being asked to review the Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra as they gave their autumn concert in their home town.

The theme this time round? Legends of Scandinavian classical music, with a little Saving Private Ryan thrown in the mix for good measure. For those in the know with the classical genre, the three composers in question merit no introduction. Otherwise, they were Norway’s Edvard Grieg, Finland’s Jean Sibelius and, of course, John Williams.

As we know, the centenary of the Armistice in World War I occurred very recently. And an orchestral version of the Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan seemed to me to be a fitting tribute to belatedly mark that hundred-year anniversary.

Following that, the entire venue was enthralled by the sheer and undeniable talent that shone through that night’s soloist — 17-year-old violinist Rachel Stonham. I have heard recordings of the true greats of the violin – Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Nicola Benedetti, Sarah Chang – I could go on. To witness Miss Stonham play live, to see with my own eyes the discipline, the control, the serenity in her playing was truly something special. Her performance was that of the Violin Concerto by Sibelius, the first of two visits that evening to the Finnish legend. It was awe-inspiring how the soloist managed to capture the moods and tones – mournful at the beginning and mischievous at the end – with what seemed to be little assistance at all from the orchestra.

I said it to people I spoke to at the time; the evening really belonged to the strings section. Maybe it was just the position of my seat, but I just felt they had a lot more to do in this concert than the rest of the orchestra. They played a very prominent part in the second Sibelius piece after the interval – a much brighter-toned Valse Triste.

My favourite came at the very end, however. The one that even non-classical music fans may recognise parts of. Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suites. Oh yes – we heard both. In a reverse order of sorts. The programme had been arranged to hear Suite No. 2 first, which was not unsuitable. This way, it begins with the violent and distressing moods of abduction, then to seduction and shipwreck. The transitions between the understated ending of Suite No. 2 and the tranquil opening of No. 1 – the ubiquitous Morning Mood – played off one another perfectly.

Making for a far more fitting finale piece was, of course, In the Hall of the Mountain King. It was here that the orchestra truly came together as one. Extremely well-played and well-conducted. And I had the piece in my head for at least two days after.

As I said in my official review for The Wiltshire Times, I could not shout-out individual members of the orchestra this time. To do so would just be unfair. They all played as well as each other; I just look forward to the next time I’m invited to see them!


For more on Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra’s concerts, consider reading:

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