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

12:04pm Tuesday 30th November 2010

By Nigel Jarrett

Musical Vienna has never been without stress and intrigue, though few composers can have made such productive use of them as Dvorak.

Commissioned to write an opera for the Viennese court, he couldn't bring himself to meet the requirement of a libretto in German because it would have meant betraying his Czech nationalist sympathies.

The frustration of jettisoning a chance to further enhance his operatic career comes out in, among other works at the same time, the tragic Seventh Symphony, and it behoves amateur musicians to call on all their resources of engagement when dealing with its musical trouble and strife.

Ironically it is the amateur's willingness to have a go beyond the point of his and her estimation of difficulty that often creates a rousing performance, as was the case here. The path to resolution, though hardly straight, was nevertheless kept securely mapped.

The Abergavenny orchestra is a mix of professionals, semi-pros, students and non-professionals aspiring to high standards. Under a distinguished conductor such as the American Kenneth Woods, the latest guest to appear while regular conductor Brian Weir enjoys a sabbatical, the results are often beyond expectation.

This was the case in Elgar's Cello Concerto, in which the soloist was Parry Karp, a fellow American of huge experience as teacher and performer whom Woods brought with him. Karp's thickly-etched melodic line and burnished tone inspired the orchestra and belied, for a while at any rate, its need for some augmenting string players.

The steady nerves were down to Mr Woods, who also made of Wagner’s prelude to The Mastersingers a noble parade of themes.

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