Herts Advertiser critic John Manning was impressed by SASO’s summer concert, featuring Mahler’s monumental 5th Symphony.
Members of St Albans Symphony Orchestra can feel justifiably feel pride at their overall level of performance at their concert in St Saviour’s Church on Saturday. With cellist Michael Wigram, their programme contained just two works, Saint-Saen’s Cello Concerto No 1 and Mahler’s Symphony No 5, two powerful and demanding works.
Mahler’s symphony, best known to the public for its adagietto used in the Visconti film Death in Venice, is a work which, from its opening bars, leaves individual musicians completely exposed. It opens with a stark fanfare performed on a single trumpet, on this occasion superbly played by David Rudd, and later, in the scherzo, the principal horn player in this case, Stephen Orriss, is faced with a challenging obbligato. Similarly, in the adagietto, harpist Catrin Morris Jones had a wonderful period of exposure.
But under guest conductor William Carslake, the entire orchestra rose to the challenge of this wonderfully moving and epic work to achieve a top quality performance. Only once, and very briefly in the second movement, did it appear that something might go wrong but almost instantly all was well again. Throughout, there was excellent playing from all concerned and the brass sections in particular, heavily used by Mahler, gave one of the best performances I can remember.
For the cello concerto which opened the concert, the orchestra was perhaps not quite as sharp but any slight deficit was more than made up for by Michael Wigram’s excellent performance. Once more he showed himself to be a very musical and inspired performer in a piece of music which is basically a single movement of ever-changing moods. And conductor William Carslake, making his first appearance with the orchestra, proved himself more than equal to the task of controlling the orchestra and guiding it though two works which, I must confess, are amongst my favourites.