Geoff Ward, writing in the Herts Advertiser, awarded top marks to SASO’s ‘Orchestral Colours’ concert in May.
The dynamic and enterprising conductor of the St Albans Symphony Orchestra, Bjorn Bantock, chose to showcase the various sections of the orchestra in the first half of last Saturday’s concert at St Saviour’s to great effect. As a result the full orchestra was not heard until the second half – a rare occurrence.
The brass section began with Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral from Wagner’s Lohengrin: they gave an impeccable performance of this fanfare-like piece, a very good arrangement by David Rudd, principal trumpet. They were then joined by the woodwind and percussion in Richard Strauss’s early Serenade for Winds. The 13 wind instruments employed in this piece gave a full, rich sound which was very pleasing.
The first half ended with the Swedish composer Dag Wiren’s Serenade for Strings, a favourite of mine. The jaunty march theme of the last movement may be remembered by some as the signature tune of the TV arts programme Monitor back in the 1950s. Again, this was a polished performance of a wholly delightful work. Why is this composer known for one piece only?
The second half consisted of just one work, the mighty four-movement symphonic suite Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov. The composer, a master of orchestration, allots solos to various instruments throughout the work: all were well executed, notably by leader Jenny Wigram who played the recurring solo violin part representing the voice of Scheherazade.
I applaud the while orchestra for an extremely competent performance of this hugely demanding work. The whole concert was a delight, with only tiny lapses in intonation and ensemble, and I have never heard the orchestra perform better.