Chandos Reviews

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During Sunday evening's concert, The Chandos, under their conductor Michael Lloyd (leader: Edward Bale), gave plenty of opportunity for the very large orchestra to be heard in its full kaleidoscopical range. All the works performed were rich in texture, and exciting in instrumental combinations.

Most interesting perhaps, was The Chairman Dances, a Foxtrot for Orchestra composed in 1947 by John Adams, who hails from Worcester, Massachusetts. Putting aside the operatic connections, it is a marvellous example of metronomic invention. The essential ingredient for a convincing performance is a perfectly regulated beat — no vagaries can be aflowed here — and the orchestra achieved this splendidly.

Beginning with a rhythmic throbbing from the woodwind, different groups of instruments gradually joined in, buiIding up wonderful palettes of orchestra colour.

Brass and percussion (including a resonant xylophone) were all caught up in many and varied cross-rhythms and syncopated beats. Momentum increased: it was thrilling. Eventually calmness evolved, instruments dropped oue, until a few single beats only were heard - then silence! This was a stimulating piece.

Till Eulenspigel's Merry Pranks, Richard Strauss's symphonic tone poem, its recurring French horn theme punctuating the trickstet's games, proved to be a field day for the percussion and brass.

Another symphonic poem, The Fountains of Rome by Respighi, created a highly charged atmosphere, various solos from the wood wind section and the addition of two harps produced beautifully lush orchestration. The tolling bell in conclusion was most effective.

Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances, using a solo saxophone to add pathos to the second movement, campleted the programme.

Jill Hopkins

Sunday's highly-creditable account of Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances was a fine example of the strengths of the excellent Chandos Symphony Orchestra.

Its rich, well-nourished sound, delivered with much rhythmic verve, captured well this wonderful music's general mood of haunted elegiacness (though the tam-tam should have been left to resonate beyond the other instruments at the end). And all this is due to the CSO's alert responsiveness to its gifted conductor Michael Lloyd, his beat clear, his leads authoritative, his manner confidence-inspiring.

And that, it must be said, is what marks out orchestras such as the Chandos from so many of their amateur colleague orchestras — a conductor who makes his amateur players sound professional. What a pity, then, that the CSO cannot consistently display such justified self-belief. An heroic attempt as Strauss' vapidly virtuosic Till Eulenspiegel found the strings bottling out of the final gloss of tonal bloom, creating a distorted internal balance which made the brass sound clattery in a boxy acoustic.

Amends were made with a smashing reading of John Adams' The Chairman Dances, concentrated and gripping, textures beautifully clear. Respighi's Fountains of Rome was stirringly done too.

Two final tips: put the interval in a less daft place (it came after only half an hour) and please get away from the jokey style of programme note which tends to end up with egg on its face (it did, as anyone who knows their Rachmaninov can confirm).

Christopher Morley