Review: Prometheus Orchestra & Choir, Ipswich School Festival, September 24

Prometheus Orchestra & Choir, Ipswich School Festival, September 24

The Prometheus Orchestra and Choir have both been formed within the last few years but have already attracted notice and praise for commitment and quality of their music making. On the evidence of Saturday evening’s concert their reputation can only grow.

Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture may lack the immediate appeal of Egmont or Fidelio but it is a well crafted and cogent piece, carefully balancing the ups and downs of the life of the Roman soldier and statesman. Conductor Edmond Fivet got the basic tempo just right and the frequent changes of mood were smoothly negotiated.

Schubert’s sixth Symphony (The Little C Major) is an engaging and assured work, with the composer’s thoughts clearly moving on from his earlier, classical symphonies towards the greater achievements of the Unfinished and Great C Major. The perky main theme of the first movement was beautifully realised with springy woodwind and neatly busy strings. The slow movement unfolded with gentle ease and the scherzo had an engaging bounce. All in all this was a fine performance, slightly marred by over-loud timpani.

The second half saw the addition of the Prometheus Choir for two works by Haydn under the baton of festival director William Saunders. He conducted with exemplary clarity and authority and the enthusiastic performers spared no efforts in the Te Deum and the Heiligmesse. In both works there was much singing and playing to admire, the faster passages often having an exciting drive and precision. However, despite a few calmer interludes, the predominance of music that was broadly ‘fast and loud’ did make the performances feel a touch relentless and one would have appreciated a little more contrast and restraint. Nevertheless, there was a great deal to enjoy in both the music and the musicianship on display.

Gareth Jones

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