Abergavenny Symphony Orchestra, King Henry V111 School, Abergavenny

4:54pm Monday 31st March 2014

By Nigel Jarrett

Conducting an amateur orchestra and performing with it as a soloist are parts of the learning process for young professionals.

Pianist Paul McKenzie and conductor Eugene Monteith are both on the way up in their careers, the latter as the current MD of the Abergavenny Symphony Orchestra and its counterpart in Bath.

McKenzie, a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, is already a competition prizewinner, and the Irishman Monteith is this year working as assistant to Jac Van Steen with the Ulster Orchestra.

The term ‘amateur’ applied to orchestras of Abergavenny’s standard means that their members do not play for them exclusively as a living, even though they include fully-trained musicians of one sort or another.

That explains how they can be relied upon to convey the shape and the sentiment of major orchestral works, such as Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, the ones played with vigour at this concert.

No-one could have been in any doubt of the melancholic romanticism of the concerto or the stressful heroics of the symphony, even though the devil was sometimes in the detail. No problem with those inexorably-built chords at the concerto's start, or the flute's introduction to the second movement's main theme (but heard in the clarinet before the piano takes over), or indeed in the way Rachmaninov sometimes uses the keyboard as an accompaniment to the orchestra. These matters required an understanding between soloist and orchestra that wasn't always clear.

In the symphony's slow movement, the three main romantic melodies are led by solo instruments - horn, oboe and, before the strings take up the tune, clarinet and bassoon. It was at this point in the work where a bigger orchestra would have made the most of what these single voices were leading to. But the Abergavenny musicians do their best with reduced forces. They don't try to do the impossible - and one's ear becomes attuned to what is within their capabilities.

The piano Mackenzie was asked to play, presumably the school’s, was not ideal. No doubt it had been tuned for the concert but an instrument’s eccentricities cannot be undone with a tuner’s hammer and mutes. Soloist and orchestra deserved better. But these are costly items. All these matters have to be considered when assessing an amateur performance.

Monteith drew unfazed individual contributions from the depths of the band and acknowledged them accordingly. The detail might have been devilish but the devil was given a good run for his trouble.

Back

© Copyright 2001-2017 Newsquest Media Group

South Wales Argus: site_logo http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk

Click 2 Find Business Directory http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/trade_directory/