As I walked home from an evening of fine music-making, a member of the audience whispered to me: ‘That’s the best concert I’ve ever been to’. She disappeared before I could ask her why that was so; let me try to guess her reasons.
Certainly there were tunes, tunes, tunes; and we all like those. Conductor Graham Jones chose four crowd-pleasers for the first half; and held back his trump card until after the short interval.
Mozart’s Magic Flute Overture fizzed along in a spirited performance that made a perfect opener. Staying in the opera house, the five short movements of Bizet’s First Suite from Carmen displayed just how far our town orchestra has come in terms of confidence and ability. There was a real Spanish flavour, some excellent flute playing, and a keen awareness of the balance between the ominous opening and the sexuality of the Aragonaise and the Toreador entering his bull-ring. Delius is sometimes accused of musical meandering; but in his opera ‘A Village Romeo and Juliet’ the ESO was at its very best, rising to the passionate climax to bring tears to many an eye.
In Finlandia by Sibelius the timpani, brass, percussion and strings seized their moments of swagger and glory, but there was what I can only describe as a ‘proud repose’ in the simple hymn-like melody at the core of the work. The second half of the concert was all Brahms: his towering violin concerto. Our soloist in Eastbourne had won the ESO Young Soloist Competition, and went on to become a finalist in the BBC Competition.
After a long orchestral opening it is peppered with exposed double-stopping and fireworks from the soloist. Roberto Ruisi’s performance was superb throughout: there is simply nothing to say beyond complimenting Graham Jones and the orchestra on their ability to rise to so commanding a level. A long-standing ovation was sufficient to confirm my feeling that we were privileged to be seeing a young man who will soon be in great demand worldwide.