Saturday evening saw both the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras of DUOS take to the stage in
Elvet Methodist Church for a thoroughly enjoyable evening of music inspired by dance.

The first half of the concert was performed by the Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Will Fox,
who began the programme with a rousing performance of Stravinksy’s ‘Danses Concertantes’. The
tightly rhythmic start of the first movement brought an exciting burst of energy to the opening of
the concert. The end of the movement came with an impressively played solo by leader Amy Ying,
who brought a spritely energy to the almost jarring dance crafted by Stravinsky. The second
movement was dominated by a quartet of violins, whose “concertantes” sections contrasted well
with tutti orchestral sections. The rhythmic intensity was well maintained by the whole ensemble
in these alternating sections and contrasted well with the more expansive and lyrical playing of the
quartet. Interjecting accompaniments, such as those in the trumpets, were played with an
impressive rhythmic clarity. The longest of the three movements, the third movement, began with
a theme introduced by the woodwinds, which was delivered with exemplary intonation. The
movement lost some rhythmic accuracy in the middle as the strings occasionally seemed to get
somewhat carried away in more lively sections. Perhaps more attention paid to Will Fox’s clear
beat in these sections would have helped achieve a greater sense of ensemble. A highly lyrical solo
between clarinet and oboe gave way to a lively closing variation in which rhythmic clarity was once
wholly regained, with especially impressive playing in the timpani here. The fourth movement
showcased yet more impressive playing in the woodwind, with an especially notable
quasi-cadenza moment in the flute. Despite occasional intonation issues in the upper strings, the
movement brought respite through a more restful mood. The swift final movement, repeating the
musical material of the first movement, was approached with a renewed and enlivened vigour and
the work ended with ferocious vitality. Congratulations should also go to Will Fox for maintaining
calm when his score fell from the stand!

Ginastera’s ‘Variaciones Concertantes,’ whilst maintaining the theme of dance which ran through
the entire programme, provided an excellent contrast to the Stravinsky. The work as a whole
consists of several variations, each of which showcases various instruments in the chamber
orchestra. The opening theme, played in a soporific cello and harp duet by Emily Pugh and Alex
Acomb, respectively, was delivered with emotional depth from both soloists, despite minor
intonation issues in the cello. Virtuosic variations in the flute and clarinet followed, and a special
congratulations must be given to Matthew Pearson for what can only be described as absolutely
nailing one of the hardest passages in the orchestral clarinet repertoire. DUOS President Laura
Cooper’s viola solo featured difficult double stopping and was played with both technical accuracy
and emotional vitality, and well supported by the woodwind accompaniment. This was followed by
a plaintive variation for oboe and bassoon, which exhibited exceptional interplay between the two
soloists, before a burst of energy in the variation for trombone and trumpet. Following this was a
fiendishly relentless violin solo, played with skill and apparent ease by Amy Ying. The ensuing horn
solo, played by Oonagh Taylor, provided a welcome contrast to this unstoppable ferocity. Calming
and gentle, the solo was delivered with expert tone, especially in the higher registers, although
there was occasional shakiness on softer passages. After an interlude in the woodwinds, the
opening theme returned in the harp and double bass, played by Nathanael Thomas-Atkin. This was
especially impressive given the high range of the theme for the instrument and, although there
were minor issues in intonation, the solo was gentle and emotive and the final harmonic was
particularly good. The finale was an absolute tour de force, with relentless driving rhythms and an
ardent melody passed around the ensemble. There were only mere moments of calm, where both
the orchestra and the audience could catch a breath before the ferocious intensity of the end of
the piece; I particularly enjoyed the highly spirited final timpani flourish from Zein Checri. High
praise must be given to Will Fox and the chamber orchestra, especially all the soloists, for their
highly professional performances in both pieces.

Following the interval the full symphony orchestra took to the stage, under the baton of
Marcello Palazzo. Ravel’s ‘La Valse’ truly demonstrated the climactic capabilities of the full
symphony orchestra. Beginning with an atmospheric rumbling in the bass instruments of the
orchestra, the texture gradually built into a lilting waltz in the strings. A stand-out performance for
me was given by the percussion section, who brought energy and flare with zealous tambourine
and vivacious cymbal playing. It was also a delight to see a contrabassoon in action! The changing
and dynamic character of the single-movement work was always convincingly delivered in such a
way that if you were to close your eyes you might imagine spinning round a grand Venetian
ballroom. The orchestra dealt well with the gradual rhythmic disintegration of the material
towards the latter half of the piece under the direction of Marcello Palazzo. The somewhat
terrifying climax of the end of the work was undoubtedly a highlight of the concert and I was
positively overwhelmed by the force of the orchestra at its loudest and most tenacious. Overall,
this was a thoroughly enjoyable performance.

The concert closed with Beethoven’s seventh symphony. Known for the influence of dance, the
driving feature of rhythm in this work brought a dynamic end to the programme. The introduction
of the first movement began with well-timed chords and strong melodic movement in the winds.
The climbing ascents in the strings were occasionally lacking in precision of intonation but the
interplay between the first and second violins was well-achieved, thanks to excellent direction
from leaders Millie Harding and Clara Falkowska. The main theme was introduced with clarity by
the flutes, which was matched with equal skill in the following tutti. The middle of the movement
somewhat lost rhythmic accuracy but this was regained in the recapitulation, although it did feel
as though the tempo had sped up by the time that the main theme returned here. The second
movement, perhaps the most famous of the four, is a sombre processional march, defined by the
repeating ostinato rhythm which begins in the bass at the start of the movement. However, this
rhythm did, at times, have a tendency to speed up, meaning that the final few variations were
performed at a much faster tempo than that achieved at the start. The melody passed through the
violas and violins at the opening was emotive played and gradually gained momentum to reach
wonderfully expressive heights. The contrasting section featured lovely interplay in the
woodwinds and horns with a more gentle mood that contrasted well with the opening. The final
pizzicato chord in the strings was placed with good rhythmic accuracy. The third movement,
relentless in its driving hypermetre, was taken at an ambitiously swift tempo which, despite
occasionally unsteadiness at the outset, settled well and made for a highly energetic performance.
The movement ended with a pugnacious tenacity which excellently set up the spirited mood of the
final movement. Marcello Palazzo certainly looked as though he was enjoying himself here – a
mood which was reflected in the lively playing of the orchestra. The fiendishly fast semiquaver
melody was played with impressive accuracy by the violins, although the horn melody was
occasionally lost in the texture. The closing section of the work built to a terrific climax and
brought an excellent end to the concert as a whole.

The orchestra and the exec should be congratulated for organising and delivering such an
exemplary concert, which was a touching tribute to the late Orlando Gonzales, father of a former
DUOS member. I look forward to DUOS’ Easter term concert, when they will be giving their
inaugural performance at The Sage, Gateshead.

Alice Latham