Borodin had not completed the opera before his sudden death in 1887, and the overture was subsequently written down and orchestrated by Glazunov. The rich variety of Borodin’s melodies was superbly displayed by the orchestra. The solemn opening with real warmth in the strings, broken by colourful fanfares from the brass led to a lively dance theme. A touch of the orient in an exotic clarinet melody was followed by a more majestic theme, with an expressive French horn solo then taken up by other sections of the orchestra leading to a vibrant and dramatic finish.
In contrast, a peaceful and atmospheric performance of Faure’s Pavane provided a tranquil interlude. Here the graceful flowing character of the music was conveyed with some elegant and haunting woodwind passages accompanied by pizzicato strings.
The first half of the concert ended with a Tango Suite, arranged by the Sinfonia’s conductor, Flores-Coni from four pieces by the Argentine composer Carlos Gardel. In this striking performance each of the four sections had their own character, contrasting emotions of nostalgic reminiscence, sorrow, romance and joy. The music, full of intricate latin rhythms and changes of tempo had a wonderfully improvisatory feel, with intensely vivid dynamic colour.
After the interval came a splendid performance of Brahms Symphony No. 2. This, the most cheerful of his four symphonies begins with a short motif from the lower strings which is repeated in various forms throughout the work. A gentle pastoral theme with sensitive and subtle phrasing from horns and woodwind was then developed with rich colouring from the orchestra. This movement ended with a beautiful French horn solo, and an echo of the opening theme.
The cellos and basses captured the character of the more solemn second movement with some fine expansive sonorous tones, lending a darker, more melancholic mood compared to the otherwise cheerful character of this work.
The oboe, with accompanying pizzicato strings opened the sunnier third movement with a graceful lyrical theme complemented by two contrastingly mischievous and lively trios.
The finale, a joyful and energetic Allegro con spirito bounded along with exhilarating playing from all sections of the orchestra, ending in a triumphant blaze of glory.
This was an impressive concert from the Sinfonia. Hilario Flores–Coni, their conductor for less than a year, has evidently established an excellent rapport with the orchestra, revealed in an evening of music that was both expressive and exciting. The orchestra’s obvious pleasure in their work was infectious. Congratulations Solway Sinfonia!
CJ November 2019