Review: Sinfonia Viva; Apex; Bury St Edmunds Festival; Friday May 25 2012

Three movements from Bach’s Cello Suite no 1 in G (BWV1007) and a haunting piece called Chant by John Tavener (b. 1944) opened this concert, the second of the Festival to feature the talented and personable Matthew Barley. Perhaps it was because these were such charming performances that the Serenade in D Minor by Dvorak (op 44), though played perfectly well by the instrumentalists of Sinfonia Viva, seemed a little unexciting, to me at least.

Conductor Nicholas Kok joined the ever-growing list of classical musicians to praise the Apex as a performance venue, and after the interval he directed the group again, this time for Arvo Part’s Fratres, written in 1977, quietly creating a haunting atmosphere but using only minimal musical material and fading to nothing at the end. Kok also gave an interesting introduction to the main work of the second half – a Cello Concerto called Invocation by the composer Tunde Jegede, in the words of the programme ‘a composer, producer and pioneer of African Classical Music’.

This piece, incorporating many different musical elements was based on a poetic narrative, and also involved an interpretation in dance – this being choreographed and performed by the Nigerian dancer Bode Lawal whose lithe body and contorted features powerfully expressed the emotions of the text. The composer himself played percussion in the ensemble, contributing to the repeated melodic and rhythmic underlay upon which the solo cello line was superimposed, often with powerful energy and drive, again showcasing the talent of Matthew Barley .

Wynn Rees

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