WITH the weather improving, the blossom out and the clocks changing there was a springlike atmosphere to this excellent programme from the LCO again opting for a Sunday afternoon slot for their music-making.
The relatively unknown Hans Heiling Overture by Marschner was quite the cobweb blower any last lingering thoughts of winter could have needed. A galloping pace throughout and an opportunity for conductor Richard Laing to show just how good the LCO have become at building tempo and dynamic in a steady and controlled fashion.
Mezzo soprano Karen Wise joined the orchestra for a delightful performance of Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder. These brief but lyrical sketches give us a view of Wagner a world away from the bombastic thunder we’d usually expect. Perfectly handled by Ms Wise and so sympathetically accompanied by the orchestra this was a real treat – but for one small but important consideration. Holy Trinity is a decent size for a church and takes some filling when it comes to sound. With the orchestra so close and not being given the benefit of a little height, the vocals were always the loser in any battle of balance with the orchestra however much lung power the former put in, or how delicately the latter tried to be.
In his brief introductory words to the programme the conductor mentioned the ever-present problem of Covid. For many musicians this was their first time back after the pandemic, elsewhere there were gaps in the ranks testifying to the resurgence of case numbers in the last few weeks. Sadly the numbers appeared to be down in the audience too with more spaces in the pews than this fine concert deserved.
As anyone who has a job or a voluntary role will know the absence of colleagues through Covid has just meant everyone else putting their shoulder to the wheel that little bit harder and it was easy to believe we were seeing this in the fully-committed, very physical performance of Sibelius’s First Symphony.
In a previous concert I was greatly impressed by how well the orchestra handled the big melodies of Dvorak. Here they proved more than equal to the expansive range of Sibelius, delivering a performance that was stirring and detailed in equal measure. Richard Laing is to be applauded for giving the orchestra full rein in the more dramatic passages. There was a full sound and dynamic power to those high intensity moments that literally made the pews shake – a real badge of honour given the apparent lack of personnel in the ranks.
Tightly-controlled and paced nicely throughout, this was further evidence of an orchestra playing at the top of its game, full of confidence and with a clear voice well worth hearing.
The LCO return to All Saints Church in Leamington on June 26 for their next Sunday afternoon outing in a programme boasting Tchaikovsky’s ever-popular Violin Concert.
Visit leamingtonchamberorchestra.org.uk for full details.