Sunday, 10 November 2019

MUSIC REVIEW: MUMS Chamber Orchestra Concert - The Martin Harris Centre, Manchester

Manchester University Muisc Society (MUMS) has many different groups under it's banner, and this evening it was the turn of the Chamber Orchestra to take the spotlight. They presented three considerable works this evening with their central showpiece being Mozart's Violin Concerto no 5, with solo violin by current student (on a joint course with the RNCM) Katherine Stonham.

Stonham (pictured above) not only played the solo violin in the Mozart, but, in true Classical style, led the orchestra too, conducting a little when she wasn't playing herself and then turning to the audience for the parts when she was. Conductors are a surprisingly modern invention, and so this made the piece feel much more authentic, and the emsemble responded well to her directing. Originally from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, Stonham showed great skill and understanding of the piece and the delicacies of and need to keep Mozart light and flowing. Even in the more morose and dramatic adagio, she still managed to allow the music to bounce and sound playful. The middle section of the third movement was the jolliest and bounciest I have heard it played in a very long time and sounded delightful.

Before this, and the orchestra played a piece of music new to me, Carl Phillip Stamitz's Symphony no1 (op13). Stamitz was a contemporary of Mozart, and although from Germany, most of his works were composed whilst either in Paris or London. A renowned violinist and certainly a very prolific composer (writing 38 symphonies and 60 concertos!) he seems to have been somewhat overshadowed these days by Mozart among others. This evening the work was conducted by 19-year old student Zoe Kundu, who conducted with balletic sweeping arms and no baton. It was an interesting approach to conducting, but it worked well for her, and once again the orchestra responded well to her.

The concert finished with a much more modern work, which pays deference to both the Classical (Mozart and Stamitz) and the Baroque (the preceding) styles, Igor Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite. [or perhaps one should write 'The Pulcinella Suite' by Giovanni Pergolesi, arranged and reimagined by Stravinsky!] But whatever the case, and whoever wrote the original tunes, Stravinsky's stamp is all over the 8 short dance pieces, and under the baton of Robert Guy this evening, this was the most enjoyable of the three pieces on offer for me.

Sadly, throughout this evening there was at least one violin out of tune; and of course, as with all live performances, we can easily forgive and overlook the odd wrong note, it happens even to the best and most accomplished! Sometimes though it is all too easy to forget just how young these musicians are and that they are still, indeed, in full-time training. It was though, without doubt, a very enjoyable concert, sensibly and sensitively put together, and with the concert finishing by 8:30pm there was still time for those interested to continue their Saturday evening revels elsewhere. It was a shame that it wasn't quite as well attended as other MUMS concerts I have been to, with the vast majority of the audience made up of fellow students.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 9/11/19

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