St Saviour’s Church was well attended for an opportunity to hear the music of three key mid-European composers. Beethoven was born in December 1770, Weber in 1786, and Mendelssohn in 1809. The works played demonstrated the debt we still owe them.
Kenneth Roberts contributed incisive comment in his programme notes, and conducted a superb performance of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture, which dates from 1826. This astonishingly mature work by a teenage composer is really a tone-poem, in which we meet many of Shakespeare’s characters. Tune follows tune, and the rich orchestration gave an opportunity for the ESO to shine. And shine they did!
Weber’s Clarinet Concerto, described as No 1 in F Minor, opus 73, was completed in 1811 when the composer was in his mid-twenties. Philip Edwards was the soloist. Each of the three movements makes specific demands, and it would be an understatement to say that he met every challenge with apparent ease. More importantly, he and the conductor seemed to have similar intuitive responses to each movement, whether the song-like quality of the central Adagio or the display of the concluding Rondo.
Beethoven’s Symphony No 3, known as the Eroica, is by any standards a mighty work. The opening movement is complex, the second a funeral march. Some might have liked a slower step for the latter, but who is to say? The total four-movement performance we heard again demonstrated the high level that our local orchestra has achieved, with the horns exceptional, and the body of strings playing better and better under their leader, Lisa Wigmore. The variations, which constitute the fourth movement, make immense demands on both the listeners and the players but we all went home feeling we had been transported, perhaps to early 19th-century Vienna. The prolonged applause said it all. By Robin Gregory.