Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Europa fits the bill

Scott Ellaway is an ambitious young man. Only 26 still, he founded Orchestra Europa all of three years ago: tonight they performed together a matchingly ambitious programme at the Cheltenham Music Festival. Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream overture; Tchaikovsky's violin concerto (Nicola Benedetti as soloist) and Schubert's Great C Major symphony. Not surprisingly, the Town Hall was packed for such popular fare. (The 6 o'clock start time was a further factor making it a gift for the corporate entertainers, who were out in force: solicitors, accountants, surveyors, headmistresses, past High Sherrifs - why, I even saw the Chief Constable there.)

What did we think of the big screens? Personally, I felt they were brilliant; but I seemed to be in a minority in our group - even though we were at the back of the hall, amongst those most likely to take advantage of them. Time will tell. Anything to distract attention from the lugubrious statues of Kings Edward VII and George V has to be an advantage in my book.

And the music? Well, the Mendelssohn was a bit heavy perhaps; and the orchestral accompaniment to the concerto soloist rather too prominent, but Benedetti gave it welly, and looks the part, if one can say such a thing these days. For me, the Schubert was the evening's highlight: OK, perhaps some of the brass might have thought they were playing Janáček rather than Schubert (especially in the 2nd movement), but I put that down to youthful enthusiasm. The tempi were on the whole just right, which is all-important in so long a work - so long indeed that we had to call on the Town Hall's first aider to revive one of our party. A dramatic end to the evening.

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