Updated 20 March 2018
Chiltern Camerata 17 March 2018
All Saints’ Parish Church, High Wycombe
Elijah by Mendelssohn
Due to the snow only a disappointingly small audience enjoyed Mendelssohn’s Elijah in All Saints Church, High Wycombe on Saturday March 17th. This was a shame as this complete performance of the oratorio was of exceptionally high calibre.
Usually four soloists have to enact the many personae in the story, whereas in this concert soloists from the Consort covered the complete cast with little doubling, enabling the listeners better to understand the storyline. All the soloists characterized their parts and their words were clear to hear. Special mention should be made in this context of Richard Milnes as Obadiah and of Matt Bernstein who as Elijah looked and sang as the lead part. The choruses too sang musically and confidently and contributed to the splendour of the day.
The orchestra, ably lead after absence by Linda Miller, coped well with Sam Laughton’s lively tempi. The strings and woodwind managed the Recitatives convincingly. There was only brief insecurity in ‘It is enough’. The brass section seated to the rear of the platform sounded marvellous in the opening but tended to obscure the words of the singers in some of the choruses. Their presence and that of the woodwind and percussion was much appreciated.
Those who braved the weather were treated to a memorable concert.
Chiltern Camerata 25 November 2017
Amersham Free Church
The Chiltern Camerata played a concert of European string music at Amersham Free Church on Saturday 25th November. The guest leader on this occasion was Lyn Jenkins and their regular (since 2009) conductor Sam Laughton not only directed the ensemble but also introduced the items concisely and informatively adding greatly to the enjoyment of the evening.
The well-balanced programme was challenging for both performers and audience alike, containing two rarely- heard pieces, Sibelius Rakastava (The Lover) Op 14, and Lutoslawski Funeral Music better described as Music of Mourning, being written in memoriam Bela Bartok for an anniversary of his death. The Sibelius has appeared in several guises, having been written for unaccompanied Male Voice Choir, then a string orchestra was added, a Mixed Voices version arrived and finally the string orchestra version heard here. The three contrasting movements were held in high esteem by the composer, who often inserted them in his symphony concerts. The Lutoslawski lived up to it’s twentieth century origins but like the Sibelius was based (loosely)on folk melodies. Some very innovative sounds were introduced and for a short period some percussion added a very interesting alternative timbre. Congratulations not only to Hugh Laughton (the percussionist) but also to the string players who plucked their strings, sometimes at breakneck speed, most convincingly. As we are accustomed to noticing the orchestra rose to the demands of these difficult works and presented under Sam Laughton’s excellent direction a treat for the listeners.
The concert opened with Mozart Divertimento No1 (special commendation to second violins who coped admirably with some very fast tempi) and concluded with Dvorak Serenade for strings bringing to loud applause an end to a most enjoyable concert.
Chiltern Camerata 13 May 2017
The Church of St Lawrence, West Wycombe
The programme of The Chiltern Camerata’s final concert of the season bore the hallmarks of an orchestra that knows its audience and appreciates the very special place it plays in. Two modern, less well-known and less immediately accessible works were sandwiched between a Haydn symphony, ‘La Reine’, roughly contemporaneous with the current fabric of the church of St Lawrence, and Schubert’s much-loved symphony No. 5 .
The Haydn brought smiles of appreciation to many faces in the audience, in a characteristically polished performance notable in several passages for the blending of flute and oboe with the strings.
Carl Nielsen’s clarinet concerto was written for, and to some extent about, the Danish clarinettist Aage Oxenvad. By all accounts, Oxenvad was a sensitive but robust character and this is certainly a sensitive and robust concerto, that clearly makes technical and musical demands on orchestra and soloist alike, and considerable physical demands on the soloist ─ a challenge to which Mandy Burvill was more than equal, producing a performance at once emotional and vigorous.
The contrast was striking between the Nielsen and Arvo Pärt’s solemn and stately canon Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, a work that seemed perfectly suited to the atmosphere ─ and to the acoustic ─ of St Lawrence West Wycombe.
And at the end of the evening and the end of the season the Schubert had the audience, if not actually skipping out of the church, at least going their way rejoicing.
A final word; the brief, knowledgeable and highly enthusiastic oral introductions to each work by the conductor Sam Laughton, and on this occasion by Mandy Burvill too, are an important and very valuable part of the Camerata’s concerts.
Chiltern Camerata with the Camerata Consort
Concert in All Saints’ Parish Church, High Wycombe on Saturday 25th February 2017
A fair-sized audience braved wind and rain to attend a fascinating concert on Saturday.
Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite constituted the first part and after the interval the Chiltern Camerata was joined by the Camerata Consort for Brahms’ German Requiem. Both works were conducted by Sam Laughton, who introduced each work and his informative yet concise remarks added to the enjoyment of the evening.
Pulcinella was composed as a ballet for Diagelev, on melodies attributed to the eighteenth century Italian Pergolesi, and it divides into eight movements. The leaders of each section of the orchestra have solo parts which contrast against the full chamber orchestra passages. Stravinsky exploits the twentieth century instruments in an innovative manner with no concessions to the performers for difficulty. Sam Laughton’s lively tempi challenged the players but they rose to the occasion admirably. Perhaps a slower tempo for the Gavotte might have been kinder to the players. Though difficult to choose for special mention, amazing soloists were Martin Priestley (horn), Richard Jacklin (bassoon) and Martin Jones (double bass).
Brahms’ Requiem is such a lovely work and it is a shame it is not heard more often. The Camerata Consort with suitably swelled ranks were obviously enjoying this performance as also were the orchestra . The solo singers, Geraldine Rowe (soprano) and Matt Bernstein (baritone) sang gloriously from the pulpit and the new church layout enabled both choir and orchestra sufficient space to present a dazzling performance.
From Marlow to the Somme
The Life and Music of Frederick Kelly
All Saints’ Marlow 12th November 2016
Our local hero, Frederick Septimus Kelly was a hero in the Corinthian mould: Oxford rowing blue; Diamond Sculls Cup winner at Henley; Olympic gold medallist; winner of a DSC for conspicuous gallantry at Gallipoli; all this, and a classical musician of note as well. At Balliol, there was also the rather rare achievement of gaining a 4th class degree! Had he survived the Great War, one wonders if he might have been a rival to CB Fry in the candidacy for the throne of Albania! On 12th November, the eve of the centenary of Kelly’s death in the Somme, the admirable Chiltern Camerata treated us to a delightful concert of Kelly’s music and to a little of that of Grainger and Ravel, both very much contemporaries and known to our man. The following morning, it was particularly poignant to hear his name read out on the War Memorial at All Saints’ Bisham.
Our narrator had “a nice voice and good sense of timing,” thought your reviewer, from the moment we came forward to row. Well, it was much better than that; the audience hung on nearly every word of well researched history and diary extract. We sensed each moment that our classical music journalist and presenter, Andrew Green, described to us. As he spoke, some of us recalled Patricia Burstall, recently deceased local figure and historian. She had been a student of Frederick Kelly’s life.
Sam Laughton conducted the Camerata in the orchestral items with experienced and sensitive hands. The orchestra responded to his calls, rather as the journalist had described Kelly’s boat at Henley, with a ‘natural sense of poise and rhythm’ – ‘a live thing under him.’
The concert was topped and tailed by songs set to words by Shakespeare, Todhunter and Shelley. Geraldine and Jeremy Rowe are well known to us as recitalists in Marlow. Geraldine’s voice has a honeyed tone, beautifully suited to Victorian and Edwardian song. Her clear line and diction left us in no doubt as to the meaning of her communication. From the first moment, we were transported to a large salon or, in the case of Aghadoe, to a green and silent glade which was to yield up its secret to us. The music might perhaps have been that of Edward German and we would have liked to have stayed with Jeremy and Geraldine for another cup of their fine brew.
Sam Laughton and Jeremy Rowe paired up at the upright for three waltz pageants for four hands – happy bagatelles: gentle, though sometimes much brisker than any waltzing I have ever essayed on the dance floor. There is always something of the comic seeing two grown men share one keyboard.
Percy Grainger was, like Frederick Kelly, born in Australia and a migrant to England though, in Grainger’s case he continued later on to the USA. We listened to a short and gentle Grainger piece, described as a ‘ramble,’ based on a sixteenth century tune of ‘My Robin is to the Greenwood gone’.
Theresa Cory was one of many bright moments in the concert. Her flautist’s skill shone through brilliantly in Kelly’s Serenade. She positively skipped through the minuet and jig movements, in charge of instrument and audience alike.
Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro is essentially a miniature concerto for harp and explores and exploits the full resources of the instrument through moments of luscious stroking of the strings. It begins in a whisper and revels in the interplay with the flute, clarinet and strings (often plucked), weaving a charming pattern.
Kelly’s Elegy is his best known piece for a reason: It‘s very good. Previously recorded and given at the 2014 Proms, it is an elegy on the death of his good friend Rupert Brooke, whom he was with shortly before Gallipoli. There is a love, rawness and loss in the music. Sam Laughton and his orchestra drew out the emotion in their phrasing and left us with a great sense of loss, just as it had the audience at the Wigmore Hall concert in 1919 marking Kelly’s own life and legacy.
Thank you Chiltern Camerata for a delightful insight into our man from Marlow (although Australia also stakes its claim)
Richard Brooman (Bisham)
(Previous seasons’ reviews are on the ‘Archived Reviews’ page)