DUPO Chamber’s Epiphany concert, set in Castle Great Hall, had a programme filled with a breadth of music, ranging from contemporary Armenian music with strong folk influences, to sacred music, and a romantic pastoral symphony. Conducted by Hugo Jennings, joined by soloist Chris Knight, I was intrigued to know whether some of the best loved, and lesser known, repertoire was going to be pulled off.
First in the programme, we were treated to Melody of Dance and Sun, a contemporary composition by Armenian composer Grigor Arakelian. It was evident throughout this work how Armenian folk music had influenced its style. The piece opened with a haunting oboe solo from Alex Milne, followed by entrances from the other wind which culminated in a smooth and effective build to the more climactic moments of the piece. There were moments, during the more stripped back passages, that some imperfections in playing were noticeable. However, this certainly didn’t detract from the overall effectiveness of the performance.
Next on the programme were five of Dvorak’s Ten Biblical Songs, Op. 99, which were written in 1894 during his time in New York. It was clear that Chris Knight was a fitting soloist for this work as his voice was well matched to the colour of the orchestral accompaniment. Although at times there was some occasional deviation from the soloist’s tempo from the orchestra, the changes between sections were executed well and seemed very natural. In a challenging acoustic which sometimes effected how well the soloist could be heard over the orchestra, balance issues were mediated effectively overall.
It was a real treat to hear yet another one of the Slavonic Dances, following on from the previous concert, and having such a cohesion between DUPO Chamber and Symphony concerts is definitely an admirable feat.
Continuing on in DUPO’s goal of performing all of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances throughout the year, tonight we were treated to Slavonic Dance No. 4, Op. 46. The spirit of this piece came through well, particularly during the livelier passages, though some transitions into slower sections were not as tight. Despite this, it was a real treat to hear yet another one of the Slavonic Dances, following on from the previous concert, and having such a cohesion between DUPO Chamber and Symphony concerts is definitely an admirable feat.
After the interval, the orchestra prepared for Vaughan William’s Fifth Symphony. The opening movement brought the lush sound of Vaughan William’s music into the Great Hall. The movement was conducted beautifully and the climaxes were handled with great effect. The lack of obvious metre in the music provides a real challenge for the conductor and orchestra during the closing passage, but this was largely well-handled and the movement was brought to an effective close. The second movement, the bouncing and sinister Scherzo, was brought to life in a way which made it so fun to listen to. The lighter sections in particular were handled delicately and with a high amount of accuracy. The emotional climax of the symphony was the Romanza. I may be slightly bias in that this is my favourite of the movements, but I doubt anyone could argue that this movement was incredibly well-executed; a real joy to listen to. The final movement of the Vaughan Williams, harking back to the first in terms of its material, certainly does not lack in transitions and tempo changes. This challenging movement was conducted in a refreshing way compared to previous performances I have seen of this work. Credit to Jennings and the orchestra; it was certainly a treat to hear this performance of the symphony
The emotional climax of the symphony was the Romanza. I may be slightly bias in that this is my favourite of the movements, but I doubt anyone could argue that this movement was incredibly well-executed; a real joy to listen to.
Overall this was a fantastic evening, building on the great success of their concert last term. DUPO Chamber yet again introduced us to some interesting and lesser-known repertoire, and rose to every challenge within the programme admirably. Congratulations in particular to soloist Chris Knight, Conductor Hugo Jennings, Leader Alex Down, and President Naomi Solomons for their hard work in producing this concert. I am excited to see what comes next, both for DUPO Chamber and the larger DUPO Symphony orchestra.
Don’t miss DUPO’s next concert on Sunday 17th March, 3.30pm in Caedmon Hall, where the Symphony orchestra will treat us to Hindemith, Bruch, Elgar, and of course, yet another of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances.