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Maidstone Symphony Orchestra 18 May 2024 (Susan Elkin reviews)

Maidstone Symphony Orchestra

Mote Hall, Maidstone

18 May 2024

It was rather a treat to have, as concert opener, a piece written by an MSO member. Philip Le Bas is principal bassoon and his Yuki-Onna is an imaginative response to an enigmatic Japanese folk tale. Descending scales which escalate texturally lead to lots of crunch brass chords in the first section and I liked the orchestration which included snare drum, two harps and xylophone. Furrowed brows, though, indicated some anxious counting and suggested that this is a pretty challenging piece to play.

Jonathan Leibovitz – with his exceptionally long slim fingers –  is an engaging soloist to watch and it’s good to hear Mozart’s clarinet concerto played on a basset clarinet so that we heard all those delicious low notes as Mozart intended. Leibovitz brought sunny lightness and colourful phrasing to a very familiar work thereby making it feel unexpectedly fresh. The adagio showed star quality in the delivery of one of Mozart’s most mellifluous melodies and he delivered the finale with mercurial charm.

There was no encore because the second half of the concert began with second piece for solo clarinet and orchestra: Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie. The orchestral part is demanding because there’s so little to hang on to but of course Leibovitz’s playing was creamily beautiful. He’s definitely one to watch.

Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra (1944) is an ambitious work of many mood changes delivered here with enthusiastic competence and commitment – although everyone looked tired at the end. The brass section was particular striking in the first movement and there was lovely playing from the woodwind (especially bassoon) in the second. Because it has five movements loosely organised like a palindrome, the concerto ends more or less where it began with some fine string work along the way, particularly from the violas, in the penultimate movement and in the fiendish fugue at the end.

All in all it was an interestingly and enjoyably programmed concert with which to end the season, and I won’t be the only audience member already to be looking forward eagerly to 12 October.



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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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