Durham University Orchestral Society’s Chamber Orchestra impressed and delighted the audience last night in the gorgeous setting of Durham Castle’s Great Hall. Under the direction of conductor Will Fox and led by Amy Ying, with cello soloist Gabriel Francis-Dehqani, the orchestra boasted a well-balanced and diverse programme executed to perfection.

From the first strains of Ligeti’s Romanian Concerto, the talent of both the conductor and the performers was clearly visible, with a splendid level of control and coordination that lasted throughout the concert. The orchestra truly came alive with the first percussion notes and the musicians were clearly enjoying themselves, a refreshing sight indeed. There were some lovely solos and duets from the horns and oboes, while the trumpets really added to the atmosphere.

Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 was the perfect foil to the Ligeti. Gabriel Francis-Dehqani was a joy to watch and listen to and the rest of the orchestra supported him beautifully, filling the space effectively even though there were so few of them. There was never a dull moment in this concerto, with the orchestra successfully switching from lively to soulful at the slightest hint from the conductor. The cadenza at the end of the first movement was full of life, with incredible precision and musicality.

‘the talent of both the conductor and the performers was clearly visible, with a splendid level of control and coordination that lasted throughout the concert’

After a short interval, the orchestra performed Larsson’s Lyric Fantasy, which reiterated how much in control and in sync with each other this orchestra is. The piece was full of magnificent solos and duets from different parts of the orchestra, beginning with a gorgeous horn solo, and followed by some really pretty flute and clarinet parts. The cello and double bass pizzicato bits were perfectly synchronised and beautifully accompanied the wind instruments.

Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin began with a challenging but well executed oboe solo. Delivering a successful rendition of a well-known piece is no easy task, but this orchestra did it very well. The transfer between parts of the recurring melodic motif was handled excellently, with seamless transitions. The harp parts really added to the mood, while the flutes and clarinets had some brilliantly executed duets. The oboe and bassoon start to the Menuet was impeccably timed and synchronised. And oh, wow! That full orchestral conclusion was absolutely fantastic!

The concert came to a close with Kodaly’s Marosszék dances, built around six folk tunes from Hungary. The piece had some really charming flute solos throughout and a heavenly piccolo solo at one point, which contrasted perfectly with some really fun percussion. The flutes and clarinets pulled off the ‘folk’ vibe brilliantly, with the strings still keeping up the beautiful, lyrical style they maintained throughout the concert.

All-in-all, this was a brilliant first concert by DUOS chamber this year, and I’m certainly looking forward to the rest of their concerts this year!

Amanda Botelho