Conductor: Joseph Schultz | Soloist: Pelham Etherington | Leader: Clementine Metcalfe
On Saturday 28th November, DUOS Chamber Orchestra returned for their annual Michaelmas concert, which took place in the exquisite setting of Castle’s Great Hall. Conducted by Joseph Schultz and led by Clementine Metcalfe the orchestra performed a varied programme, featuring Mozart’s magnificent Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, performed by Pelham Etherington. DUOS Chamber certainly kick-started the winter concert series with a brilliant sense of character and energy to their performance. With over 150 people crowding into the beautiful great hall this was a great tribute to the orchestra, and they deserved this sell out audience and supportive atmosphere.
The concert opened with Bartok’s Hungarian Sketches, a collection of magnificent folk tunes, a few of which were originally based on his works for piano. Each of the movements carried their own character, and it was magnificent to see these moods captured brilliantly by the orchestra.
The woodwind sections carried melodies excellently, with the lyricism and phrasing of the clarinets in particular, played by Peter de Souza and Izzy Trotter, really allowing for the melodies to sing out effortlessly.
The upper strings were clearly technically very capable and articulation was very good on the whole whilst the lower strings handled the tension of the second movement excellently, maintaining a good vigour to their playing. In lighter sections, the strings on the whole could have been quieter, to aid the balance of the music so that the sound didn’t become too blurry. Overall, the sketches were varied and entertaining, and it was wonderful to hear a piece which is arguably under-performed.
The Prokofiev worked very well under the reins of the orchestra, and it is clearly the type of music that the orchestra performs well. For a chamber orchestra, the body of sound was very impressive and the dynamic variation allowed for great expression to the music. Dance-like moments were captured very well, with the orchestra achieving a playful mood, keeping the music relaxed yet not at all messy. The string sections provided a good liveliness, however at times came across a little overbearing, when a softer, more delicate sound could have been more impressive.
Pelham Etherington’s performance of the Concerto in D minor was truly masterful, capturing a magnificently delicate sound, which worked in contrast to moments of mysterious darkness, allowing for an insight into the inner workings of Mozart’s restless brain. It was incredible to have a performer produce such a magical Mozartian sound; with perfect balance between his two hands, he gave a very accomplished performance. At times, phrases could have been allowed more time to breathe, but their overall shape was still beautiful, and the voicing of parts came through well. The perfect continuity between both hands gave the performance professionalism, with almost metronomic regularity in tempo.
The first movement held its own well, with the orchestra maintaining a good balance with the piano, and the combined sound was very impressive and well controlled. The second movement allowed for a graceful mood, which was captured well by the piano, with a very conscious lightness of touch throughout. The rises and falls of the orchestra really gave this movement a lot of colour, with the second violins proving reliable in providing a perfectly balanced accompaniment to the piano in many places. Some minor issues in the middle section proved a shame, but this was recovered well. The final movement carried a great energy to it, and it was nice to see the orchestra really let some aggression into the more frantic passages. It was amazing to hear such a professional performance from the soloist, and he clearly demonstrated a great musicality to his playing throughout.
Concluding the programme, the Haydn was excellently controlled and the orchestra achieved a magnificently rich sound, with great care taken over dynamics. Tricky passages were handled confidently and overall the orchestra was very strong, with a sturdy yet bright brass section. The upper strings carried legato passages excellently, and their phrasing was beautiful. It was clear to see that the musicians enjoyed themselves, which was evident from the energy to the symphony.
With the concert starting at a later time of eight o’clock and the programme weighted more heavily in the first half, the concert felt a little stretched out, but this did not detract too much, and overall was performed to an incredibly high standard.
Joseph Schultz directed the ensemble magnificently, with all the orchestral players clearly at ease and enjoying the performance experience. As Joseph conducted the Palatinate Orchestra for two years before taking the reigns with the Chamber Orchestra he is clearly comfortable on the podium and that confidence came across to both audience members and performers. For a student body, the quality of music was stunning, and there was a brilliant connection to the music throughout.
DUOS are performing again twice more this term so if you would like to hear the society perform again then look out for their concert next week – The Symphony Orchestra performing Dvorak under Lewis Wilkinson at Elvet Methodist Church. Book tickets here. And for their final Christmas Concert with the Chamber choir on the 14th December, which will bring them back to the magnificent Great Hall, book tickets here.