Clapping etiquette when listening to a symphony is generally terrifying unless you’re of high breeding and can naturally resist the urge to clap at the end of a movement rather than the end of the piece. Visual cues are an absolute necessity. There should be no instinctive clapping whatsoever - always look around to make sure others are going to clap too and maybe even wait until at least half the room has started before launching in. Even the little children had mastered the 'when to clap' rule. Thankfully my arm was in a sling and I could preserve my 'when to clap' integrity by accident. The rule of thumb to follow is basically the opposite of those people on Ryanair flights who clap when the pilot lands the plane. Who started this trend, and why?
Etiquette aside, Corona Strings are an Oxford-based ensemble directed by Janet Lincé and on Saturday night in the St John the Evangelist Church they played Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, closely followed by Piazzola’s Four Seasons.
Eight seasons in two hours was made possible thanks to work of many musical collaborators. Such a pairing was only achievable because of the work of Desyatnikov, a Russian composer who worked with Kremer, the man behind Hommage à Piazzolla who is most likely everyone’s introduction to the founding father of the modern tango vibe. It was Desyatnikov who arranged tango suite for string and solo violin. He also managed to incorporate 15 quotations from Vivaldi’s opus that do not appear in the original Piazzolla work and imitated form to stretch out the reference. He rewrote all the original bandoneon pieces for solo violin (played wonderfully by David Le Page) but also added in cadenzas (virtuoso solo violin pieces or free-stylin' as we’d say in the vernacular). This segues nicely into my now effusive praise for the orchestra members themselves.
You cannot be in an orchestra and play an instrument on autopilot. I’ve never seen it happen and perhaps it isn’t possible. Whoever was the 1st violinist (who they swapped around, particularly in the Vivaldi section) did it with flair and aplomb, poise and grace. The Corona Strings ensemble moved as one; their faces were expressive, they sought and gave visual cues to each other, they became the music they were playing. It was utterly mesmerising and not just because of their technical ingenuity. It would be enough to make you never listen to Classic FM ever again as it does classical music such as injustice to hear a recording played through such a tinny sound machine as a car radio. Of course, the acoustics in SJE are sublime so this helped create the perfect melodic evening too.
If I’m 'harping' on about the Piazzola piece more, I apologise. It was the main draw for me although the soloists doing Vivaldi did also blow my mind.
Corona Strings’ next gig is 24th March in SJE again and they will be doing Bach. Don’t forget to not clap until the very end!