Review: Mahler Chamber Orchestra Soloists, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, June 16

Mahler Chamber Orchestra rehearsing

Mahler Chamber Orchestra rehearsing - Credit: Archant

The Mahler Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1997 by former members of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra with the help of the late Claudio Abbado.

Mahler Chamber Orchestra rehearsing

Mahler Chamber Orchestra rehearsing - Credit: Archant

Its 45 core members come from 20 different countries and live all over Europe but the MCO has been orchestra in residence in the Italian City of Ferrara since 1998.

Although the central repertoire consists of symphonic and operatic works, there is sufficient flexibility in the orchestra’s structure for them to perform chamber music as well.

Their concert at Snape Maltings began with one of the most original and delectable works in the entire chamber repertory – Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro for flute, clarinet, harp and string quartet. The performance was immaculate, water trickled, colours shimmered and the sun shone. Eleven minutes of poised perfection.

Edward Nesbit’s short, two movement violin concerto is scored for soloist and single flute, clarinet, harp, horn, trombone, cello and bass. In the first movement the violin plays a constructive role that alternates between melody and virtuosic decoration but in the second movement the violin goes its own way to a greater extent and Tim Summers played it all with energy and conviction. There were interesting contributions from the ensemble and the young composer’s sure touch was rewarded with warm applause.


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Mozart’s Quintet for piano and wind is another monument to his versatility and ability to produce just the right kind of music for a particular combination. The first movement, in particular, had a joyous drive to it, Tamara Stefanovitch’s nimble runs nicely blending with the bright wind timbres.

Schubert’s Octet is a staple of the chamber canon and it retains its appeal and charm even if one might occasionally wish for one less variation, trio or even movement. This was, however, a performance to cherish with every player contributing dexterity, polish and happiness to the music. It might seem invidious to mention individuals in such a cooperative venture but the clarinettist’s control of pianissimo and beyond was outstanding and it was impossible not to smile at the characterful contributions from the bassoon. It was indeed an evening of accomplished and joyful music making.

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Gareth Jones

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