Posted tagged ‘Caroline Dale’

English Chamber Orchestra at the Wigmore Hall, 3 November 2011

November 6, 2011

Lovely ECO chamber concert at the Wigmore Hall on Friday. First, out trot a pair of girls with curly hair and lacy black frocks, looking for all the world like long-lost sisters… They are Stephanie Gonley (violin, highly accomplished leader of the ECO) and Katya Apekisheva (young Russian pianist, prize-winner at the Leeds Piano Competition, evidently a rising star). We are treated to Schubert’s A minor Violin Sonatina (D385), a work of extraordinary depth and subtlety by a 19-year-old composer. Exceptionally, they played both repeats in the first movement (which Schubert obviously intends you to do). Plenty of fire, passion and introspection – the slow movement was heavenly. Stirring performance of a terrific piece.

Then came Mozart’s Horn Quintet, K407, in which the solo horn is accompanied unusually by a string quartet consisting of one violin, two violas and a cello. Soloist John Thurgood was his usual poker-faced but impeccable self, playing with great wit and aplomb and enjoying the musical company of his colleagues as much as they were enjoying his. (We wondered if cellist Caroline Dale had forgotten her black dress? The only player not in black – but the bluey one she wore was very pretty.)

After the interval, Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet, in an exceptionally spirited (i.e. fast) and lively performance – all great fun. Caroline Dale and viola player Jonathan Barritt would catch each other’s eye and grin hugely at crucial duetting moments. Stephanie Gonley led gamely from the front. My only quibble concerned the platform layout – pianist Katya Apekisheva seemed to be stuck at the back in a world of her own (though she managed some eye contact with Stephanie, and the ensemble was well-nigh faultless). Is there not some way of positioning the string players around the piano so that everyone can see everyone else, and we can see still see them? (Remember that Gerard Hoffnung cartoon…??)

Underpinning the whole performance was the velvety sonorous double bass of Stephen Williams – another poker-faced player, but one who evidently takes great pleasure in his role. He plays a huge, impossibly gorgeous and subtly decorated instrument by Gaspar de Salo, dating from the 1580s – which I thought was before double basses had been invented. A bit of a puzzle. (Oh, all right – cue for lecture about the double bass being a member of the Renaissance viol family and thus having older parentage than the upstart modern violin/viola/cello…)

Smashing evening – thanks for the tickets, Pauline! And thanks to Caro for joining us and for your luxurious hospitality over the Berlioz Weekend (which is another story…)

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ECO/Elgar

October 4, 2007

And so, again, to Cadogan Hall (03 October), for the English Chamber Orchestra’s first concert of the new season, a 150th birthday tribute to Sir Edward Elgar.

But first, an introductory talk by Humphrey Burton, who gave us an entertaining and informative biography of Elgar, enlivened with reminiscences from his own involvement with the famous Ken Russell TV film.  H showed his immense professionalism by speaking for half an hour without notes (‘and without drawing breath’, as my brother Tony said).  Humphrey was then joined by Paul Watkins to discuss the Elgar Cello Concerto – also very illuminating.

Jolly good, H (he ain’t heavy…).

Then eventually back into the by now crowded hall – the audience apparently consisting, to a large extent, of members of the Burton family and bassoonists (including me, my niece Rosie, her chum [hi, Iona!!] and at least six others that we knew of).

First on the concert programme was the Introduction and Allegro for Strings.  Now this was ideally suited to the Hall (cf. my thoughts on large orchestras in here), and to me it made terrific sense as a piece of chamber music, with the lovely and characterful solo quartet (Stephanie Gonley, Annabelle Meare, Jonathan Barritt, Caroline Dale) handing the music back and forth to each other and the other players as though they were all part of one intimate chamber ensemble.  (Maybe, as Tony pointed out, that wasn’t how Elgar imagined it, having written it to show off the massed strings of the LSO in 1905;  but this approach did it for me).  Here as in the rest of the programme, American conductor Andrew Litton showed himself a fine, sympathetic but no-nonsense Elgarian.

Then came the Nursery Suite, which is fairly fluffy stuff if the truth be told, but always touching, and Elgar’s orchestration is an object lesson and a perennial delight.  William Bennett turned ‘The Serious Doll’ into a way-over-the-top flute concerto, but no one seemed to mind.  Nice violin solos from Stephanie Gonley in the last movement, too.

Julie PriceAfter the interval, (more…)