It was a pleasure to listen to the varied programme that DUPO Symphony performed in the afternoon light of Caedmon Hall on Sunday afternoon. Conducted by Matthias Lichtenfeld and led by Chris Savage, the orchestra, which prides itself on its accessible, friendly and sociable atmosphere, tackled works by Hindemith, Bruch and Elgar in a packed and characterful two-hour programme.
Beginning the concert with an amusing twist, some jovial back and forth between Lichtenfeld and a well-planted audience member provided an immersive introduction to Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis. Composed during his American exile in 1943 by taking four pieces by Carl Maria Von Weber and metamorphosing them into his composition, the music transported the audience in four captivating movements. The first movement opened with a very convincing theme played by the first violins, which set the tone for the rest of the piece. Solid intonation was displayed by all sections of the orchestra, particularly in frantic, semi-quaver passages as the movement progressed. A quieter middle section provided space for some enchanting oboe solos by Catherine Walker, before a tutti climax to end the movement.
The second movement began with beautifully-played flute solos from Giselle Lee, accompanied by string harmonics. Contrasting textures within this movement showed the different capabilities of the orchestra, with the brass section in particular shining when they had the main themes. Fuller textures were contrasted by an isolated chromatic passage in the first violins, which while not precisely together were well played. It was a particular treat to hear the percussion section have their moments in the limelight during this section, and praise should go to the percussionists for their rhythmically precise playing.
The third movement featured lilting solos from principal clarinetist Joshua Ward and principal bassoonist Thomas Field, and when these melodies returned they were accompanied by a virtuosic flute solo played by Giselle Lee. The final movement showcased the tutti sound of the orchestra and rounded off a very enjoyable performance of a particularly challenging work.
Next we heard Bruch’s Concerto for Clarinet and Viola, transcribed for violin and viola. Soloists Becky Taylor and Charlotte Sasse together gave an impressively eloquent performance, each showing an incredibly high level of musicality and talent. It was a shame that the orchestra had a tendency to overpower the soloists in some moments, particular the solo violin. Nevertheless it was clear that the soloists had put in a significant amount of work, which ultimately culminated in a stunning show of virtuosity. There was clear communication between the pair, who passed intricate melodies between themselves effortlessly. A particularly breathtaking moment came when Becky and Charlotte played a beautiful melody in thirds, enhanced by perfect intonations and expressive vibrato. Overall, it was a privilege to hear this concerto performed by such fantastic performers.
After a short interval for refreshments, DUPO Symphony returned with Elgar’s Wand of Youth Suites 1 and 2. The orchestra did well to bring to the fore the individual character of each movement. A particular bonus of this repertoire choice for me was that the movements showcased different sections within the orchestra. Again the percussionists showed an impressive level of skill and accuracy, and special mention should also be made of beautiful woodwind solos throughout. This was perhaps a slightly less impressive second half after such ambitious and challenging repertoire in the first half, nevertheless, the orchestra certainly brought the music to life by capturing the styles of the movements, particular the ethereal nature of those portraying fairies and butterflies.
The concert was rounded off with Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No.1 in C major, tying in with DUPO’s aim of performing the entire set of Slavonic Dances across the year, with one movement in each concert. Dance motives were passed seamlessly between the string section and wind section, creating a performance full of character. A jubilant ending led to a great finish to an afternoon concert.
DUPO Symphony tackled some particularly challenging repertoire in this concert, and also had to face the challenge of a difficult acoustic, leading to a set up which was less than ideal for the audience. Nevertheless, the programme was well-received and characterful throughout. Credit should go to Conductor Matthias Licthenfeld, Leader Chris Savage, and President Naomi Solomons. Also congratulations to soloists Becky Taylor and Charlotte Sasse. DUPO have clearly worked hard this term and I am excited to see what they perform next term.