Guest violinist is ‘stunning success of the evening’

All sections excelled in Prokofiev’s rugged Fifth Symphony, according to Herts Advertiser critic John Manning. But magnificent playing by soloist David le Page provided the evening’s stunning success in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto

While Serge Prokofiev’s March from his The Love for Tree Oranges suite might be one of this best known pieces, the same cannot be said of his fifth symphony. Yet they were the two works that topped and tailed Saturday’s concert by the St Albans Symphony Orchestra.

The March and the Scherzo from the same suite, which followed, are easy listening, the powerful symphony is anything but. Written in the depths of war in the summer of 1944, the symphony is a work that demands very careful listening.

And the St Albans Symphony Orchestra under new conductor Tom Hammond captured the stark feelings embodied in the work together with the rising feeling of hope as the fortunes of war turned. While the second movement has a happier face, it is not a work with any of the lightness of The Love for Three Oranges suite. Though complex and generally sombre, it does contain some free melodies and the orchestra achieved a fine performance with all sections excelling.

Guest violinist David Le Page’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto was, without doubt, the stunning success of the evening. His playing was warm and sonorous, yet fully charged with the emotion of the piece. He completely gripped the audience with the quality of his playing and the dazzling cadenza towards the end of the first movement was magnificent, matching the quality of many much better known performers.

Throughout, the orchestra matched his fine performing skills and Tom Hammond showed himself to be someone who works in complete cooperation with his soloist. Overall this was a captivating performance of a very well-known piece of music and all the better for coming at the heart of a thoroughly stimulating and enjoyable concert.