Review — Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra with “Titans of Austria”

at Holy Trinity Church, Bradford-on-Avon – 7th July 2018

Conductor: Phil Draisey • Leader: Carmen Tunney • Soloist: Siân Dicker

Photo Credit: Ellen Mirza

Even the streets of Bradford-on-Avon were scorching on 7th July. While most were busy celebrating the fact that England weren’t out of the World Cup yet, 70-odd musicians were preparing for a monumental display of sheer talent. On a day to be celebrated in its own right in the classical music world — Gustav Mahler’s 158th birthday. Inadvertent but nonetheless apt that his First Symphony “Titan” should be the headlining piece in the Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra’s summer concert.

There was a theme of finality about the first half of this season’s concert, with the two pieces being among the last, if not the last things their respective composers wrote. First, the Overture from Mozart’s The Magic Flute — one of my absolute favourite operas and the last he wrote before his untimely death at the age of only 35. It’s deliberately a brief but rousing piece, and the orchestra did an amazing job of suggesting the comedy and the drama that the rest of the opera contains.

Our singing for the evening was not coming by way of Mozart but by Richard Strauss. And courtesy of the flawless voice of the singularly-gifted soprano Siân Dicker. Strauss’ Last Four Songs are oxymorons in that they suggest both melancholy and joy — something that anyone with even the slightest shred of artistic appreciation would be able to tell in every note.

During these sections, with the acoustics in the recently-refurbished Holy Trinity Church and the number of musicians in the orchestra, it was an additional testament to Dicker’s talent that her voice was not dominated. A lesser singer would have been drowned out against such resonant sounds.

The second half brought in the birthday boy Mahler and the Titan Symphony. The orchestra all became possessed by this incredibly narrative piece of music – each movement capturing a different emotion and chapter in the Titan’s tale and the musicians playing accordingly. Not excluding the interesting and commanding directorial style of conductor Phil Draisey.

Compliments have to go to the strings section (including orchestra leader Carmen Tunney), the brass section, the French horn players, harpist Ben Creighton Griffiths and timpanist Daniel Watt for their key roles in depicting the calm before the storm, the simmering rage and the chaos that forms the crescendo.

As ever, an evening spent with the Trowbridge Symphony Orchestra never disappoints. We are already looking forward to their Autumn concert with a touch of Scandinavian theme about it in November.

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