Read Colin Clarke’s, Seen and Heard International, review of ‘The Living Orchestra- New Beginnings’ performed on 6 October 2020, at the Stratford Play House.
OOTS was conducted here by a figure beloved by many in the industry, Michael Collins. Best known for his clarinet activities, Collins has taken up the conductor’s baton and here provided beautifully shaped, individual performances of the works on this varied programme. The extended dwelling on texture before the soaring, high violin melody appears is carefully judged, and it was expertly paced here by Michael Collins. The control of the players, and their concentration, was what finally convinced me of this piece.
“The performance was wonderfully shaped by Collins, and notable for how he brought out an underlying Stravinsky-like quality that is not always noticed in the score…”
A thinning of instrumentation for the Adagio from the Afro-American Suite by Undine Smith Moore (1904-1989) meant we had just a trio of piano (David Gordon), flute (Diane Clark) and cello (Chris Allan). The piece initially flowed on easily from the Richter, with its warm piano chords, but soon made its own different way with a flute melody that had an indigenous North American feel.
Pianist David Gordon spreads his time between early music and jazz, so it is perhaps no surprise that he can meld the two so easily. His Rameau Suite took four pieces as starting points: the ‘Entrée de Polymnie’ and a ‘Contredanse en Rondeau’ from Les Boréades, ‘Cruelle mère des amours’ from Hippolyte et Aricie and a ‘Tambourin’ from Dardanus. The ‘Entrée’ has a sort of hypnotic quality; David Gordon’s take is to allow the players’ ‘jamming instincts’ to take over on repeats. Certainly, the marriage of Baroque and jazz is by now a time-honoured one, although one that has primarily so far focussed on Bach. This was a stimulating, charming take on this idea, the rusticity of the ‘Contredanse’ then coming across as notably modern. Phèdre’s air, ‘Cruelle mère des amours’ in an instrumental version formed tender contrast before strings, wind and piano joyously closed the Suite with the ‘Tambourin’.
“This was a performance that had it all, and more: sterling playing from all, tempos perfectly judged, but most of all revelatory, as if the score had been restored in the manner of an old painting”.
The most familiar item to many on the programme was surely Copland’s Appalachian Spring, a piece that gifts many a melody to the solo clarinet: no pressure, then, for the OOTS’s Sally Harrop. The performance was wonderfully shaped by Collins, and notable for how he brought out an underlying Stravinsky-like quality that is not always noticed in the score: the angularity of some of the shapes, the spikiness of the harmonies and above all the rhythms that require the utmost tautness to contrast with the more relaxed plateaux.
This was a performance that had it all, and more: sterling playing from all, tempos perfectly judged, but most of all revelatory, as if the score had been restored in the manner of an old painting. The jagged moments made the luminosity elsewhere all the more satisfying. A wonderful performance.
Taken from Seen and Heard International written by Colin Clarke. To read the full article click here