Symphony orchestra clearly knows the score

A capacity audience at the town’s Winding Wheel played host to Chesterfield Symphony Orchestra’s concert, the first of its 30th season. And hasn’t it come a long way in those 30 years?

The programme included ballet music from Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake and Nutcracker; very well knowN music and standard repertoire but far from easy. It was played with style and finesse and the balance and dynamics were well controlled.

The concert started with perhaps one of the least well known of Russian composers, Liadov. His 8 Russian Folksongs were a revelation to the listeners and such a varied collection of miniatures deserve to be heard more often. Sad, poignant, humorous and festive by turns, these pieces gave the various instruments and sections of the orchestra a chance to shine and shine they did. Liadov was a perfect opener for the Tchiakovsky that followed.

By the interval all the was fine, but what would the second half bring? Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony is not a work for the faint-hearted and is something of a marathon for both players and listeners alike. A very complicated piece and jam packed full of the most wonderful soaring melodies, but also full of notes and the best part of 60 minutes long.

The rhythmic and demanding orchestration of this work is not to be tackled lightly by an amateur orchestra but although there were one or two ‘moments’ when all was not totally clear to the listener, the orchestra played with panache, intensity and emotional involvement that transmitted its involvement to the audience. So much so that there was an outbreak of applause at the end of the 3rd movement. The very demanding final movement was a rollercoaster of swift rhythms and heart-rending melodies and the orchestra did a first-class job leaving the listener with a night to remember for all the right reasons.

Special mention must be made of the clarinet whose solo in the 3rd movement was just perfect and the horns and brass were just right in the fuller sounding sections. The strings had a warmth and professionalism that is often lacking in amateur music making.

Chesterfield is indeed fortunate to have its own orchestra of such a high standard and the orchestra is fortunate to have well-known local musician Edward Boothroyd to lead it and Andrew Hodkinson to wield the baton which is done with clear enthusiasm and musicianship.

I look forward to more great music-making to come with their English programme at Easter.