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Review of May 2024 Concert

What a magical trio of works which made up the second of St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra’s 2024 Subscription series.  Conductor Michael Joel, always popular with the orchestra and audience, was at his very best.  The orchestra continues to amaze with its responsiveness, sensitivity and technical skill.


Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture, written when he was just seventeen, was the opening work.  The woodwind opening was measured, precisely and beautifully articulated.  Mendelssohn never spared the violins, and their semi- and demi-semi-quavers were immaculate.  When joined by the full orchestra the whole was joyous and exultant.  The sizeable cello and bass section was supplemented by a rich tuba sound.  A brilliant start to the concert.


Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with Diedre Irons as soloist was riveting.  The orchestra opening set the scene for the piano entry.  The orchestra played with finesse and grace.  The acoustics of St Matthew’s can lend itself to rather muffled sounds but Iron’s solo entry was authoritative, well-articulated and crisp, with a vibrancy and warmth.  Soloist, orchestra and conductor were totally as one.


The piano opening of the second movement – the slow tempo of muted strings, created a serene beauty.  The jubilant, positive third movement was full of melody and piano and orchestra ended it in good cheer and warmth. 


Diedre Irons’ immaculate performance was accorded a standing ovation.  She thoroughly deserved this mark of great respect and affection.  Congratulations to soloist and orchestra.


Hadyn’s Symphony No. 101 (The Clock) might well have been an anticlimax after the emotional high of the Beethoven, but conductor and orchestra never allowed the intensity to slacken.


After the slow introduction in a minor key, the orchestra moved into the full-paced energetic theme in the major key.  This was Hadyn at his sunniest and most jovial.  The orchestra produced its most disciplined playing throughout – careful phrasing, sharp sforzandos and watchful attention to changes in pace and volume.  The wonderful slow movement with its clock-like pizzicato was worthy of special note.  Such attention to detail makes SMCO a very professional ensemble – not least because of Michael Joel’s skilful conducting and rapport with the orchestra.

Review by Rogan Falla

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