The Taunton Sinfonietta, Somerset

Press & Media


A little Night Music May 2014

Concert Review by Mary Trewin

Taunton Sinfonietta in its less familiar quartet form, introduced its concert in Taunton's St James' Church with Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. From the opening moment, the players bows were used effectively to outline the sound and shaping of the musical phrasing. The Leader, Mary Eade's first violin melody contrasted effectively with the conjectural snippets of the lower register of the cello and the Minuet's shaped sensitive phrasing and restraint. The concluding rondo summed up the up the work with Mozartian sparkle.

Elgar's Chanson de Nuit made a welcome appearance, leading nicely into Clive Jenkins' 'Five Pieces for Clarinet', dating from 2003. This was a very interesting work, full of contrasts of style. Colin Parr, clarinet soloist, on a welcome return visit to Taunton, was busy, clearly enjoying the ensemble element as much as the soloist's one. It is to be hoped that this piece will stay in the ensemble's current repertoire for future use. It gave us moods-a-plenty from the angular, through the sad warmth of the minor cadence, to the rapturous clarinet 'tranquillo' sounds of the Adagio, concluding with some spectacular cheeky short melodic fragments in the finale.

Borodin's famous Nocturne from his 2nd Quartet, dating from his later years, emphasised the Sinfonietta's warm sensitivity in playing their well-shaped notes in the St James' sunshine. Signalling Colin Parr's return, Brahms' Clarinet Quintet - scored for clarinet and string quartet - represented the composer's later years with a wide range of colours and expressions,which, (notwithstanding one small blemish in tuning) made a delightful conclusion to a well-appreciated and outstanding concert.

Mary Trewin

Flutes and Strings - Suites & Concerti February 2014

A review by Mary Trewin.
TAUNTON SINFONIETTA presented their 'Flutes and Strings' concert in a variety of styles from the 17th to 21st centuries. Locatelli's Concerto Grosso displayed the 'concertino' quartet balanced against the 'ripieno' full orchestra. The brisk Allegro soon became warmly melodic in the Largo: subsequent sections were guided clearly by leader Mary Eade, supported by keyboard & cello continuo.
Soloists Judith Hall & Jonty Hedges joined the ensemble to give a delightful account of Vivaldi's double flute concerto, demonstrating the composer's innovative skill in orchestration as well as the soloists' ability to use the sympathetic acoustics of St James' Church. This was carried into Gluck's well-known Dance of the Blessed Spirits, played with charm.
West Country composer Clive Jenkins introduced his Sinfonietta for Strings, a welcome airing for this interesting modern work. The opening movement, with sweeping melodic lines, was shaped with great resonance, whilst the second was a gift to the cellists, perhaps encouraged by the late afternoon sunshine coming through St James' stained-glass windows. Rustic Dance was light-heartedly supported by bass pizzicato, which in turn eased into the 5/4 finale. The rich harmonies showed the ensemble in great form.
Denmark's most famous composer, Carl Nielsen, composed his Little Suite for Strings whilst a student. Scandinavian romanticism characterised the first movement, followed by an attractive waltz. The whole suite came to a grand climax, with subtle hints of earlier themes to give cohesion to the whole.
Bach's 4th Brandenburg concerto brought this balanced programme to an end. In true concerto grosso form the soloists (two flutes, one violin), contrasted with the orchestra. The contrapuntal style was alert, the sparkling finale drawing sustained applause from the appreciative audience.

Mary Trewin

"...Joy to performers and listeners alike"

Taunton Sinfonietta February 13 - Concert review by Mary Trewin

Taunton Sinfonietta's February concert at Temple Methodist Church added delight to a wintry 2013, with a splendid account of two popular compositions, Schubert's Two-cello quintet in C and Mendelssohn's Octet in E flat, the whole sensitively directed by Mary Eade

In his short life Schubert excelled in almost every field of composition, his highly regarded chamber pieces reflecting his love of performing. The Quintet, written in 1828, a month before the composer's early death was a masterful construction, demonstrating melodic and harmonic inspiration, the imaginative scoring giving everyone a good share of the action. The Adagio portrayed an almost ethereal canvas, the expressive 'flautando' violin melody, answered by pizzicato cello notes was sheer joy, the slow melody wondrously drawn by the bows without losing impetus - a feat of technical mastery. The musical lid was raised in the Scherzo to reveal rich bubbling sounds and sharply contrasted textures in a wealth of harmonic colour.

The Octet, written by 16-year old Mendelssohn, was a delight to hear, like a colourful piece of fair-isle knitted in eight contrasted strands combined into a fabric of incredible complexity and contrasting texture. Using the wide range of musical possibilities in the combined forces of four violins, two violas and two cellos, the composer produced one of his most popular works.
The opening movement, of symphonic proportions, demonstrated craftsmanship in the development of a simple arpeggio. The Andante, a Siciliano, was supremely expressive, supported by the sensitive acoustics of Temple Methodist Church, giving joy to performers and listeners alike. The well-known Scherzo - "pianissimo and staccato throughout" was Mendelssohn's specific instruction - delivered with elfin-like delicacy, drifted away in a whisper into the Temple rafters. A lively fugal finale completed this fine performance, with strands of earlier movements shining through, leading to a triumphant conclusion.

Mary Trewin

30th Anniversary Concert ~ Contrasting Musical Styles and Colour

Concert Review by Mary Trewin ~ November 2012
Taunton Sinfonietta's Baroque concert displayed widely contrasting musical styles and colour. Frederick the Great provided the opening salvo with his Sinfonia for keyboard and strings .The spacious melody of the second movement received particularly sympathetic treatment by the finely balanced string parts and the keyboard playing of Jonathan Watts.

Careful attention to details of bowing styles & the restrained warmth of tone in John Stanley's Concerto No.5, arranged for Harpsichord showed superb mastery. Jonathan Watts provided insight into the contemporary practice of composers 'borrowing' tunes from each other, before performing Bach's version of a Vivaldi violin concerto for harpsichord & strings. The three movements concluded with busy tumbling triplets at great speed. Exciting stuff indeed!

In Bach's popular E major violin concerto, soloist Mary Eade immediately established the bright character of the music with clear articulation and shapely melodic playing from the orchestra. The discreet coninuo playing of the bass line and harpsichord provided contrast while the brisk episodic dance of the Finale lead to an exuberant close. William Boyce's first symphony gave the orchestral performers a chance to expand their role, displaying sensitivity to varied shapes and harmonic colour.

Despite its occasional uneasy complexity, there was much to appreciate in the atmospheric effects of Janacek's Suite, from a rather later musical period, (1st performed in Brno in 1877) - the muted strings sending ethereal sounds around St James' Church. The concertante style of a quartet of soloists intermingling with the wider canvas of rich harmony demonstrated the power and strength of this fine ensemble.

Mary Trewin

November '12

Fabulous Clarinet Quintet

Mozart's popular Clarinet Quintet opened Taunton Sinfonietta's Chamber Concert at Temple Methodist Church in great style. Colin Parr (clarinet) and string players Mary Eade, Sarah Wormell, Andrew Gillett and Vicky Evans played with well-blended tone, enhanced by sympathetic acoustics. The first movement showed careful attention to textures and melodic shaping, while the clarinet's long phrases in the slow Larghetto were beautifully expressive - a change of tone colour coming from the string quartet in the Trio. The whole work concluded with exuberance and beauty in the finale.

Andrew Gillett's Tour of the Isles, compiled from traditional folk tunes with skill and humour, - complete with extraneous plucks and knocks (deliberate ones) which gave character and charm, - demonstrated the versatility of the players. Further folk music came with an attractive performance of Frank Bridge's Cherry Ripe.

Weber's Clarinet Quintet was more of a soloist's show -piece than Mozart's. It was composed over four years, showing Weber's changing styles across the movements. A warm Introduction gave way to the spirited character of the Allegro. Melodic lines sang clearly in unanimity of style. The mellifluous sounds of the clarinet's colourful tonal register were indeed striking in the Fantasia, whilst the conversational style of the Minuet & Trio demonstrated excellent rapport between clarinet and strings. Rhythmic complexities were generally convincing, despite some minor imprecision. In the last movement the soloist supplied melodic charm and sparkling technical prowess. Balance of parts was carefully controlled, the delightful sounds generating an enthusiastic reception from the appreciative audience.

Mary Trewin

Winter Warmer Review

Taunton Sinfonietta's appropriately titled 'Winter Warmer' concert found Temple Church provided an excellent venue for their winter performance. The 14 musicians, standing in horse-shoe formation around the seated cellists provided a splendidly cohesive ensemble, expertly directed by Sarah Wormell. Handel's Concerto Grosso, Op 6, no.2 demonstrated the niceties of this art-form, with the concertante trio contrasting well with the orchestral ripieno. Careful preparation and leadership produced effective result, the final fugue showing sensitive musical balance.

Taunton's Young Musician of the Year, Kirsty Chaplin, joined the orchestra for Mozart's Piano Concerto in A, 1st movement. The pianist gave a persuasive account of Mozartian clarity, showing dexterity of finger work & discreet pedalling. Rapport with the orchestra was excellent. Corelli's 'Christmas' Concerto, Op.6, emphasised warmth in the slow movements, with bright clarity in livelier sections & skilful changes of tempi. The Allegro was joyous, with the well-known lilting finale exuding calm peace. An attractive Concerto Grosso by Locatelli brought this neglected composer into the spotlight, the 4 movements demonstrating a wide spectrum of expression, the work concluding with a sparkle.

Kirsty returned for Mendelssohn's Rondo Capriccioso, a challenging but popular solo, demonstrating a more romantic style. An expressive Andante led into the delightful Rondo, with its strongly contrasted dynamic colours. This was played with panache and musical commitment - pedalling was perhaps a little heavy in the passage-work - but this was a very impressive account from a talented young performer.' Winter' from Vivaldi's Four Seasons concluded the concert. The opening orchestral 'icicles' effect reminded the audience of the approaching season. Soloist Sarah Wormell directed a convincing account, ending with a vigorous sparkle.

Mary Trewin

Taunton Sinfonietta heralds the arrival of Spring.

Spring arrived with the Taunton Sinfonietta's concert at St James' Church in March. The sun was bright and the music shone in a display of vibrant colour.

Handel's Op.6 No.1's five short movements displayed the concerto grosso art-form in which a trio of soloists, violinists (Mary Eade and Ruth Gasperini) and cellist (Robin Carpenter) conversed with the orchestra in moods ranging from reflective gentleness to dramatic sparkle.

English composer William Boyce's popular Fourth Symphony was stylishly performed with sensitivity in its interweaving counterpoint of the second movement wrapped between a bright opening Allegro and an elegant Gavotte.

The warmth of the orchestra's tone was at its best in Arensky's Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky. The rich harmonies in which all sections shared, the innovative craft of the composer, the cross-rhythms and warm viola and bass timbre all added to the rich musical tapestry. The unanimity of style and rhythmic precision, clearly directed by Mary Eade, gave a performance of taste, with a touch of light humour.

Finally, Schubert 's setting of Matthias Claudius's poem 'Death and the Maiden', arranged by Mahler, was an alert and convincing account of its complexities and challenges. This demonstrated imaginatively a wide and colourful palette of contrasting moods, from sombre depths, pianissimo delicacy and ghostly empty harmonies to cheerful dance (tarantella) and busily decorated melodies. A delightful and moving conclusion to this tribute to Spring!

Mary Trewin
March 2011

TAUNTON SINFONIETTA. "FOUR SQUARE"

Another fine concert by Taunton Sinfonietta! Belying the title, the programme portrayed a delightful balance of energy and sparkle, softened by warm sensitive moments.

The orchestra's eminent president, Allan Schiller was joined by well-known local musicians Andrew Carter, Stephen Bell and Keith Jones in Bach's transcription of Vivaldi's B minor concerto for 4 violins, performed on harpsichords. Forty fingers flew with great dexterity in the outer movements, the middle larghetto displaying colorful decoration of the sombre harmonies. Orchestral support was musically balanced Telemann's popular unaccompanied 4-violin concerto, played by the Sinfonietta's Leader Mary Eade, Abigail Todd, Anna Cockroft and Ruth Gasperini showed the chamber music characteristics of this genre, with its careful contrasts of style, dynamics and pairing of parts. Mozart's F major Divertimento gave first violinists opportunity to enjoy the melodic resonance, with sensitive orchestral support. The slow movement was particularly gratifying for the players too, who shared the musical beauty. The concluding Presto was given bright attack, although some of the crispness became just a little blunted in St Mary's rafters.

Well-crafted programming brought the concert forward chronologically if not in style to Greig's Holberg Suite. These baroque dances showed a change of timbre, with wider contrasts, crowded ideas and bows flying. Slower moments in Sarabande and Air gave opportunity for the bass line to enjoy the limelight, the sombre minor mode in Rigaudon leading into a flamboyant conclusion. Percy Grainger had the final say, firstly with Londonderry Air - the full orchestra's pianissimo tone was incredibly effective - then the tongue-in-cheek Handel in the Strand, bringing back the four keyboard soloists. This was a joyous, perky finale to bring delight to the enthusiastic audience.

Mary Trewin
1 Mar 2011

A Rare Musical Treat

Concert Review by Andrew Carter

On 26 September 2009 in Taunton School Chapel, Taunton Sinfonietta and a group of accomplished soloists delighted a near capacity audience with a vivid musical evocation of the wit, elegance and grandeur of the eighteenth century.

From the start of Mozart's effervescent 'Marriage of Figaro' overture it was clear that the orchestra, under the crisp and clear direction of Stephen Bell, was in top form, achieving tight ensemble and good balance between wind instruments and strings. There was then a sense of great anticipation as Chris Ma (Taunton Young Musician of 2009) sat down to play Mozart's Piano Concerto No 23. He did not disappoint; the performance of one of Mozart's supreme masterpieces was distinguished, showing a secure technique, lightness of touch in the intricate passagework, and sensitive phrasing. Chris has a maturity and confidence unusual in an artist of his age, and fully deserved his ovation. The orchestra provided reliable support, even if occasionally it was too loud for one listener's taste.

Mary Eade (violin), Lynn Carter(oboe), Lynda Edwards (bassoon), and Hilary Boxer (cello) then starred in Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante, a sunny and sparkling work, written during a visit to London in the 1790s, which makes great demands on all the soloists, but especially on the violinist. All four played admirably with close coordination, evidently relishing the lightly-scored, playful, chamber-music quality of the writing; but special tribute must be paid to the exceptional virtuosity and musicality of Mary Eade.

After the interval the mood switched from classical poise and charm to Baroque pomp in the shape of Handel's familiar Music for the Royal Fireworks, composed for a public celebration of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. The first performance was reportedly a disaster - this one was emphatically not, with trumpets, horns, timpani and sidedrum making the most of their opportunities to shine. No complaints about volume here!

The concert ended with another Haydn work composed in London - his Symphony No 101 - named 'The Clock' because of the 'tick-tock' motif in the slow movement. After a demanding evening's music-making, the orchestra rose triumphantly to this final challenge. The symphony is stylistically advanced for its time, particularly in the opening Adagio and the slow movement; there is also much rapid, technically difficult string writing. All credit to the stamina and concentration of the musicians - but their obvious enjoyment communicated itself to the audience, who responded with sustained applause.

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Telephone:
01935 862339
Chairman:
Robin Carpenter
Weavers' Cottage
Hardington Moor
Yeovil, BA22 9NW