‘Elgar workshop results in topnotch playing’ says critic

SASO’s performance of Elgar’s Symphony No 2 at the conclusion of its 2016 Babs Yule memorial workshop weekend was ‘impressive’ according to Herts Advertiser music critic, John Manning.

Anyone hearing Elgar’s second symphony for the first time might be forgiven for not recognising it as the work of the great composer. For, in its overall style, it bears little similarity to his more popular and often-heard works.

This is a huge and complex work which is why the St Albans Symphony Orchestra chose it for its annual workshop where members spend Friday evening and Saturday morning rehearsing with their own principals and professional musicians.

What made this year’s workshop different to previous years was that members of the public were invited into St Saviour’s Church on Saturday evening to hear the result. Working with former principal conductor, Bjorn Bantock, the orchestra took a few moments to settle into the work for the performance but from then on the result was excellent.

Completed in 1911 and dedicated to King Edward VII who died the previous year, the symphony is largely melancholic, particularly in the second movement, although the final movement shows some of the lightness seen in Elgar’s more popular works.

Overall, the performance was impressive and demonstrated the considerable skills of the orchestra’s members and conductor. To achieve such a good performance after such a short rehearsal time was a significant achievement.

The event was made more enjoyable by the pre-performance talk by Bjorn Bantock, whose grandfather, composer Sir Granville Bantock, was a close friend of Elgar. His talk included reminiscences from family members of visits shared between the two families.

Saturday’s event was made possible through a bequest from orchestra friend, Babs Yule who died aged 90 in 2010.

May 2016