There was a lot going on in tonight’s concert by the Oxford Symphony Orchestra. First up was Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. For me this was a challenging piece. The players did an excellent job of keeping the parts distinct, but the pieces themselves just has so much going on in them. To my low-born ears there seemed little tying the parts of the arrangements together so I found the experience to be a combination of bracing and confusing. That said, it was absolutely the right choice to start with Stravinsky - I was fresh enough to put the effort into engaging with the piece and so did get something out of it. Had it been scheduled for later in the concern I think I would have struggled.
Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No.1 was something else entirely. Magdalene Ho’s mastery of the instrument is spellbinding. The complexity, speed and graceful power on display was jaw-dropping. I can’t recall hearing a more impressive piano led piece, it really was quite amazing. Moreover, the concerto was by no means a one-person effort: the entire orchestra seemed to rise to meet the occasion with such sheer joy and energy that I couldn’t keep the smile from my face. In turns powerful, delicate, intricate and bold, it was like being hit in the ears by a sack of diamonds. But in a good way.
The third and final piece was a rendition of Dvo?ák’s Symphony No.7. This bold symphony was just right for the orchestra and location. The domed hall was filled to the brim with the force which only a full orchestra can muster. Conductor Robert Max clearly understood the power he was playing with. Swishing and cutting through the air, rocking back and forth on his heel, at times the excitement practically propelled him off his feet. The energy between conductor and orchestra was palpable, and the effect was glorious.
I had a great time this evening. Even though the first piece was difficult (and the lighting was perhaps a little too bright), the energy, power, and fun of this concert left me buzzing. I understand that Oxford Symphony Orchestra’s next performance is on Saturday 23rd June at the Sheldonian Theatre. I intend to be there.