sat 13/07/2024

Goldscheider, Royal Orchestral Society, Miller, SJSS review - fine horn playing from the very best | reviews, news & interviews

Goldscheider, Royal Orchestral Society, Miller, SJSS review - fine horn playing from the very best

Goldscheider, Royal Orchestral Society, Miller, SJSS review - fine horn playing from the very best

A tribute to Ukrainian music also featured a fearless take on Shostakovich

Horn player Ben Goldscheider

London’s non-professional orchestra sector is an undervalued asset to the city, and deserves more attention. And so last night I went to hear the Royal Orchestral Society, accompanying horn superstar Ben Goldscheider, and it proved a better way to spend an evening than sitting through another tortuous England football tournament game.

The programme was typical of the ROS’s imaginative approach to repertoire under conductor Rebecca Miller. It focused on Ukrainian music – and had an invited audience from London’s Ukrainian community in attendance. (Concerts later this year promise Judith Weir and Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside the more customary Brahms and Elgar.)

The opener was a touching Chorale for Strings by Hanna Havrelets, who tragically died days into the Russian invasion in 2022, when she was unable to receive essential medical care. The strings section of the ROS was impressive, polished in intonation and focused in its sound, with restrained vibrato. The music’s style was generally conservative – although the concluding smudge of harmony was deliciously ambiguous.Conductor Rebecca MillerThe highlight of the programme was Ben Goldscheider playing Ukrainian composer Reinhold Glière’s Horn Concerto. Written in 1951 when the composer was in his 70s, it is infused with Glière’s usual melodic facility and good-natured charm. Goldscheider has a natural charisma on stage, holding the attention, and his fluid legato and changes of sound were perfect for the piece. The cadenza (by Hermann Baumann) was a triumph of technique – the multiphonics were extraordinary! – but it didn’t seem entirely in keeping with the character of the rest. But from the languid, seductive slow movement to the skittering scales of the coda, Goldscheider was a pleasure to hear.

The second half was Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. It’s not a favourite piece of mine – for me its mythology exceeds its merits – but the ROS and Rebecca Miller (pictured above) tore into it with a passion. At times they were pushed to their technical limits, but gave every impression of enjoying the challenge. The strings impressed once again, and in the garish second movement there was a strong sense of bombastic abandon from the whole ensemble. Miller led by example, giving it both barrels throughout and – in the parlance of the football commentator – the orchestra left everything out on the field.

@bernardlhughes

Comments

Thank you for highlighting a 'non-professional' orchestra in London. The standard of some similar orchestras in London and around the country, often comprising people who teach music, or studied at music college before going on to a different career, can be really excellent. Their passion, energy and sheer enjoment of playing often comes through so that the music comes alive - sometimes more so than in an accurate professional performance. Research is emerging that shows audiences enjoy such playing, and with touring being so tough for the professional sector, performances like this (and elsewhere in the country) should be highlighted and given greater profile so that people see the amount of fantastic music-making in this country on their doorstep, and break the stigma of 'amateur' meaning 'poor', as often the opposite is true.   

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