Review: West Forest Sinfonia at St Paul's Church in WokinghamBy Robert Roscoe
June 11, 2012
Review West Forest Sinfonia
St Paul’s Church, Wokingham
Sunday, May 27
The programme West Forest Sinfonia gave during their May concert had clearly been thought about very carefully.
It showcased more obscure works by famous composers and featured excellent works by some less well known composers, all British, as one might expect, in this Jubilee Year.
After an engaging introductory chat by their conductor, Philip Ellis, the orchestra gave a wonderfully evocative account of John Pickard’s The Flight of Icarus, first performed in 1990 in the presence of the composer.
Pickard uses colourful orchestral textures and sonorities, french horn with violins, a key part for trumpet and tuba (both skillfully managed), solo woodwinds and lots of percussion (I could almost imagine an Ondes Martento) to depict the various elements of the story.
The Sinfonia was then joined by twelve solo voices in a captivating account of Vaughan-Williams’ Serenade to Music, a closely adapted setting of Jessica and Lorenzo’s scene from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
The original scoring called for sixteen solo voices, but Vaughan-Williams’ encouraged variants of this to be performed.
The singers, led by soprano, Natalie Clifton-Griffith, achieved a beautifully rich and balanced ensemble using skilful interplay between the voices, only occasionally being slightly overpowered by the instrumentalists.
The second half began with music by the other less well known composer, George Butterworth, who died very prematurely, whilst serving in the First World War.
His idyll The Banks of Green Willow, gave the audience the opportunity to hear some glorious woodwind playing, from the opening folk song on the clarinet (Caroline Owen) to the beautifully controlled final flute melody (Simon Salisbury).
The final work, Elgar’s In the South, introduced the audience to one of his less frequently performed but certainly one of his finest works, and brought the concert to a rousing conclusion.
The Sinfonia’s recently appointed leader, Giles Wade, seemed to enjoy his new role, showing confidence and flair.
Philip Ellis is to be congratulated on bringing an array of skill, musicianship and verve to his players, and for encouraging them to play with such musical subtlety and conviction.
Wokingham is very fortunate in having such an illustrious ensemble in their town and next season’s programme looks very exciting and should attract and delight even bigger audiences.