Review: London Mozart Players, Ipswich School Festival, September 21

Ipswich School Festival, London Mozart Players, September 21

Ipswich School’s second Music Festival opened with the London Mozart Players in a concert containing four of the most interesting and effective of the many pieces written for string orchestra. With sixteen players (4-4-3-3-2) in the favourable acoustic of Great School there was every opportunity to observe, indeed to experience, the inner workings of this polished and committed ensemble.

Grieg’s Holberg Suite has a warmth and accessibility that was felt from the very opening bars. Everything was well judged with the middle, slower movements displaying exceptional poise and delicacy.

Peter Warlock is best known for his Capriol Suite in both piano duet and string orchestra versions. Warlock treats these early dances to his own harmonic invention, often to arresting effect as in the final bars of Pieds-en-l’air and the players made every note count.

Mozart’s D major Divertimento K136, played with exemplary accuracy and fluency, concluded the first half, yet its inclusion did not quite sit comfortably with the other pieces.

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Holst’s St Paul’s Suite, written for the girls of that school, is a work of great skill and originality, particularly in the final movement where the stately tune of Greensleeves makes its majestic way above the rapidly moving original figure. How proud and inspired the girls must have been by their teacher! There was a real sense of English pride and history in the music and the performance – the string sound at once hard-edged, yet richly cultivated.

The group’s leader, Susannah Candlin, explained that opportunities to perform the final work, Britten’s Frank Bridge Variations, did not come along that often and this was a chance to be enjoyed. It certainly showed and the players attacked (sometimes literally) the work’s sometimes spiky, quirky and occasionally hair-raising challenges. It made for compelling listening and viewing, a fine ending to a strong and powerfully delivered concert.

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Gareth Jones

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