25 June 2011

RVW Symphony no 5

The Leiden Toonkunst Orchestra under conductor Jeppe Moulijn played a free concert at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford this afternoon - for patients, staff, family and friends. It's a big hospital with many patients and many staff - and they mostly have families and friends - so it was a shame that the orchestra outnumbered the audience by two to one.

The Orchestra was in town - Oxford is twinned with Leiden, as well as Bonn, Perm and who knows where else - to play at the Town Hall which they did the previous evening. This afternoon's concert repeated two of the three works in that programme.

First came the Concertante for Flute and Oboe by Ignaz Moscheles. No, me neither. But he is in the Penguin Dictionary of Music - my oracle, until I know everything in it and have to graduate to Grove, which Oxfordshire County Council thoughtfully provide online for their library members. in fact, "A New Dictionary of Music", third edition, 1973. It's a long-term oracle. Moscheles was a friend of Beethoven and teacher of Mendlessohn, was German-Bohemian in origin, lived from 1794 to 1870 and spent the years 1826 to 1846 in England. He wrote eight piano concertos - the Dictionary adds "etc., now never performed", so the Concertante must count as an "etc" and the "never" is no longer true. It was a delightful piece, reminiscent of Mozart (unsurprisingly) and available here on YouTube along with loads of other Moscheles stuff, some of it played by York Bowen. Do listen!

Then there was a short interval, just long enough to eat a Snickers bar, followed by Vaughan Williams's fifth symphony. It's a piece I must have heard sometime, but RVW's symphonies are not as familiar to me as I would like - and this one will bear a lot more listening. The band didn't sound perfect, partly because the acoustics of a hall that appeared to be designed mainly for sports left something to be desired: but I noticed a few mistimed entries and bum notes, which didn't detract a bit from the enjoyment, or from the players' evident commitment to the piece. A great afternoon.

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