The highlight of the evening’s performance came as the inconspicuous Iain Mundy joined the orchestra to take the lead in Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E-flat. While giving a wonderfully clear performance, the orchestra brought out his best in the cheerful call and response pattern between the trumpet and the violins. Showing a lovely fullness of sound, joining in unison and taking over from a perfectly blended wind section, the piece came to a complete and satisfying end. I dwell on this piece most because I was a little disappointed with the rest of the concert.
Haydn’s Symphony No.102 in B-flat major, chosen to open the concert, made the orchestra come across as unprepared and unprofessional. Passion was achingly lacking from the sustained, broad phrases in the second movement as was professionalism in the string sections with more practice needed with their bow work. The dancing third movement was the most enjoyable and allowed the wind section their first real chance to shine, but was let down by the violins whose obvious lack of confidence meant that the quiet sections came across muffled and unclear - the accelerando was weak and not together.
The choice of Shostakovitch’s Symphony No.10 in E minor seemed an odd one to close the evening with. Although technically the orchestra came into its own when tackling some difficult time changes and performed with much more confidence, the whole piece was rather dreary and depressing. There were some wonderful pizzicato sections in the first and third movements which became the backdrop for some fantastic solos on the flute, French horn and bassoon. However, everything had a rather sombre mood in this minor key and never had a chance to brighten. The second movement was more exciting with Calvary drums and absorbing, bold sounds and broke away from the quiet unease which had been the theme so far. I question Conductor Neil Mantle’s choice of this ending piece because, although the orchestra performed it to a good standard and with obvious skill, the composition left little chance for them to showcase brighter, happier or even romantic styles. It was a good performance, but it could have been better.