"Dynamic Tom leads SASO into 2017 concert success"

GEOFF WARD, reviewing SASO’s 2017 New Year Concert in the Herts Advertiser, says he has never heard the orchestra play better.

Tom Hammond
Tom Hammond

St Albans Symphony Orchestra gave their annual New Year concert in St Albans Cathedral a day later than usual under their charismatic and dynamic new conductor, Tom Hammond (pictured).

The concert began with a sparkling performance of Richard Strauss’s ever-popular Suite from his opera Der Rosenkavalier. There was some beautifully quiet playing in the central waltz; the final loud section was a delight.

Robert Schumann’s rarely-heard Konzertstuck for four Horns and Orchestra was the only other item in the first half. Joining regular SASO horn player Stephen Orriss were guests Pip Eastop, Martin Childs and Alex Wide. The playing of this highly-difficult piece was exemplary from both soloists and orchestra.

The second half began with five of the 14 movements from Tchaikovsky’s Suite from his ballet Swan Lake. Again the ensemble could hardly be faulted. Then came the theme from the 2004 film Ladies in Lavender by Nigel Hess, with leader Jennifer Wigram giving a most pleasing violin solo with orchestral backing.

Tango Jalousie by Jacob Gade is the best-known piece of music by any Dane and arguably the most popular tango. This was given a near-perfect rhythmic performance. The published programme ended with a work which no New Year concert should be without – a Johann Strauss waltz. This was Strauss Junior’s immortal Tales from the Vienna Woods.

It is a New Year tradition for SASO to perform an encore. This time the capacity audience was treated to a rousing rendition of the Radetzsky March by Johann Strauss Senior and encouraged to clap in time with the beat.

This was a highly enjoyable concert with only minor issues of intonation and ensemble; I have never heard the orchestra play better.

From the Herts Advertiser, 5th January 2017