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Folkestone Symphony Diamond Anniversary Concert (Susan Elkin reviews)

Folkestone Symphony Diamond Anniversary Concert Leas Cliff Hall 09 July 2022

FOHS.jpgFolkestone Symphony’s postponed (the 60 year landmark was last year) Diamond Concert was worth waiting for and it was good to see a large audience in the grandiosity of Leas Cliff Hall to enjoy it.

The highlight of the evening was the Tchaikovsky violin concerto played by the charismatic, smiling Joo Yeon Sir. Her very first entry – as sumptuous and sensuous as I’ve ever heard it – was a love duet with the orchestra and she delivered the rest of the movement, including the fabulous harmonic-laden cadenza, with passion and precision which also shone through in the Canzonetta. There were some special moments during the mini duets with flute and then with bassoon when she turned to face the other players and we all felt the power of musical collaboration at its best. Her finale was shot through with so much rubato (and what fun she had with it) that Rupert Bond had to keep the orchestra alertly on its toes to follow her. All players came up trumps and the overall effect was to make a very well known work seem totally fresh. It was a bravura performance.

Folkestone Symphony is a community orchestra which states in its programme that it welcomes new members – at grade 6 standard for strings and grade 7 for woodwind and brass. So you don’t go expecting Berlin Phil quality. However there are some outstanding players in the ensemble and the string sound (an impressive nine first violins, eight seconds, six violas, eight cellos and four double basses) is a great strength. In the Enigma Variations which closed the concert I loved the way the contrasts and mood changes across the fourteen variations beamed out from the warmth of Variation 1 (it depicts the composer’s wife) through to the self-mocking pomposity of the final variation which presents the composer himself. Other noteworthy moments were Variation 7 with delightful timp work, variation 4 played with a vibrantly full sound and variation 8 which really emphasised the quintessentially English lyricism. And as for the famous Nimrod (variation 9) Bond took it at a tempo which moved dynamically so it didn’t feel, as it sometimes does, like an old fashioned gramophone in need of winding up.

And then we got an encore and were spirited away from Folkestone and the English Channel glinting through the windows to Vienna for the Radetsky March, played with aplomb and near-obligatory audience on the beat (sort of) clap along.

The concert had opened – nothing remotely obscure or modernist about this programme – with Brahms Academic Festival Overture which took the orchestra a few pages to settle into. Again, the strings excelled even in the fiendish scale passages on the final pa

ge but the overall cohesion slipped once or twice.

What a treat to attend a concert prefaced – presumably in honour of the Jubilee – with a fanfare and then the National Anthem. It isn’t easy to kick off cold with a fanfare but it came off reasonably well and I liked the arrangement of God Save the Queen.

First published by Lark Reviews

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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