Abergavenny Symphony Orchestra, Our Lady and St Michael's Church

2:41pm Monday 25th November 2013

By Nigel Jarrett

Music once thought odd or inappropriate often makes us wonder why there was such a fuss, especially as expectations are raised mostly about the content of a piece than about its form.

It was the form of Vaughan Williams’s Pastoral Symphony that had some listeners foxed when it was first heard in the early 1920s, just four years after the end of the Great War.

As the Abergavenny Symphony Orchestra lovingly portrayed it, this meditative work, scarcely raising its voice, could only have been about some kind of loss. Perhaps clothing an elegy in symphonic dress was judged by some to be ‘not the done thing’.

Such a peculiarly English reaction became part of the programme at this concert of British music, with its connections and commemorations.

November is remembrance month and the centenary of the Great War’s awful beginning fast approaches. The inclusion of Britten’s Matinées Musicales with Stanford’s First Irish Rhapsody marked Britten’s centenary and the position of Stanford as a considerable composer overshadowed by Elgar.

The symphony, with its highlighting of the orchestra’s soloists, found the musicians taking their responsibilities seriously as part of the work’s long-breathed sentiment. Young Welsh soprano Llio Evans was the wordless soloist in the final movement, intoning characteristically from the organ loft at the back of the church.

The orchestra always revels in outgoing music replete with tunes fondly stitched together, so the two other works were ready-made for it and found a ready response.

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