Sinfonia of Birmingham
St Mary’s Warwick
Leamington Music Festival
IF the delivery of this festival provided a challenge to organisers, artists and audience then it was only right that the finale should announce a triumph. Hard to think of a better way of doing just that than Beethoven’s evergreen evocation of human endeavour and achievement.
Sibelius’s Valse Triste started the evening’s programme, played straight through as has been the case recently to avoid the mechanics of social distancing an interval.
Sibelius offers the chance to test the quietest end of the dynamics and, under the baton of Michael Seal, the orchestra took the volume down to the point where even the church’s bright acoustic was struggling to pick it up. It was a ghostly, very compelling effect.
Beethoven’s monumental third symphony, in the hands of the excellent Sinfonia, was a perfect end finale to this festival. Its familiarity doesn’t demand too much of its audience and the bombastic themes and cadences never fail to get the metaphorical foot tapping.
Given the rich resources of themes set out right from the start, it was a real pleasure to hear things really start to take off in the symphony’s slow march second movement.
Church acoustics can, if the traps are avoided, provide a thumping power to the basses and cellos while offering endless etherial floatiness to the oboes and flutes. In an ensemble sound that seemed to come from all around, the orchestra made the rich reverb work for them perfectly.
With the strong sun bursting in through the church’s windows and a muggy day all round, this was warm work indeed with orchestra and conductor certainly putting in the physical graft.
This has been a period when the whole nation seems to have become gripped by the possibility that some concept of prowess and achievement might finally be ‘coming home’. For all the disappointments of Sunday night at least a few of us can take pleasure in the reaffirmation that music and the music festival is well and truly back with us. If it ever left.