DUPO’s first concert of the year, showcasing the society’s chamber orchestra and conducted by newly appointed Sonia Bae, featured a stunning night of music in Castle Great Hall. The programme was well selected, with music centred around themes of mysticism, folklore and young love.

The concert began with the performance of two of Liadov’s tone poems; The Enchanted Lake and Kikimora, both composed in 1909, which were initially composed for the incomplete opera Zoryuskha. Opening with The Enchanted Lake, the orchestra settled well into the challenging acoustic setting of the Great Hall; from the outset of the piece the orchestra blended together perfectly. Furthermore, the intonation of the string section provided the miniature with a perfect silky tone throughout. It is safe to say that Sonia Bae led an atmospheric performance, grasping the sense of mysticism and charm of the piece excellently.

Following on from this Kikimora was a resounding success as well; the programmatic piece provided audience members with a broad array of musical imagery. The rumbling bass and celli opening was executed splendidly, indicating the pure excitement and raucousness of the piece to come. Of course, I must give a nod to Jennifer Talbot’s lyrical cor anglais solo which soared graciously over the rest of the orchestra. Additionally, Oliver Rice and Emily Pugh’s mischievous celeste and harp melodies brilliantly foreshadowed the chaos that was soon unfold. The following presto section was the most thrilling moment of the concert; the entire orchestra came to life, bubbling with excitement and executing the swelling dynamics perfectly.

‘Sonia Bae led an atmospheric performance, grasping the sense of mysticism and charm of the piece excellently’

The orchestra concluded the first half with Faure’s Pelléas and Mélisande Suite. The Prélude was performed with a great depth and richness of sound: however, the finest moment of the suite was the Sicilienne, which was characterised through a pensive lilt that could not prepare the audience for the tragic final movement. Movement four was performed impressively: I especially enjoyed the dramatic brass fanfare passages that interchanged with the more lyrical and melancholy moments of the movement.

‘The programme was charmingly brought to life by a very talented group of musicians’

The concert concluded with Prokofiev’s Sinfonietta. The five-movement work, originally composed in 1909, was performed with an engaging energy; the youthfulness of the composer was fully manifested within the music. I particularly enjoyed movements one and five, through which the opening theme returned gracefully in a circular manner. Unfortunately, the pianissimo passages throughout the work were not executed in the most delicate manner; I feel as though some communication between the conductor and orchestra were lost. Additionally, the opening tempo of movement three felt uncertain in places, with the strings and wind sections falling out of time with one another. However, this did not take away too much from the overall impression of the piece, and it was a joy to hear a rarely performed work played with such gusto.

Overall, it was a pleasure to listen to DUPO Chamber’s first concert of the year; the programme was charmingly brought to life by a very talented group of musicians. It was also refreshing to see a female conductor on the podium. I am excited for both DUPO Symphony’s concert in the Town Hall this Sunday, as well as to see how DUPO Chamber develops over the coming year; this is certainly an orchestra to watch!

Martha Dean