New Years Day Concert Review

January 2011 ~ John Manning writes in the Herts Advertiser

EVEN though Ellie Fagg has been one of the most popular young local musicians for many years her performance with St Albans Symphony Orchestra at its traditional New Year’s Day concert was her first appearance at St Albans Abbey.

But the ovation she received at the end of her performance of Max Bruch’s stunning first violin concerto was not just that of her local fan club, it was a real tribute to the high quality of her performance.

Now one of the country’s leading young violinists, Ellie’s performance of the concerto on New Year’s Day was a far cry from the one I remember her giving in the Alban Arena as a teenager quite a few years ago. Then she was good, but on Saturday her performance was one of the sweetest I have heard. She played with tremendous skill and passion, drawing out every last drop of emotion from the work. And the orchestra, under its new conductor Bjorn Bantock, responded well to her excellent interpretation, providing string support and a very well-rounded performance. Overall the concert demonstrated the orchestra’s ability to handle a wide range of music and Bjorn Bantock’s excellent control.

Starting with the Polovtsian Dances from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, it went on with deFalla’s Three Cornered Hat Suite No 2 before the concerto. After the interval the programme continued with Aaron Copland’sstrangely syncopated Danzón Cubano before moving on to better works including Satie’s Gymnopédies Nos 1 and 3, Johann Strauss the younger’s Pizzicato Polka and
Franz Lehár’s Gold and Silver Waltz. The climax of the evening was a fine performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

Overall the orchestra performed to an extremely high standard and Bjorn Bantock‘s style of conducting appears to suit the members well. The evening was his second concert since becoming the orchestra’s conductor and the signs are that this could become a very successful partnership.

While I am sure he will make changes to the way the orchestra works, at least he stuck to one popular tradition on New Year’s Day by bringing the concert to a close with an un-programmed performance of the Radetzky March, an event which always brings the house down.

JOHN MANNING (6 Jan 2011)

For further information, contact:
David Utting (SASO Press Officer): 01727 762855 / 07930 313790