Appreciating unusual pieces and more comfortable waters

Northern Sinfonia
Northern Sinfonia

REVIEW: Northern Sinfonia, Alnwick Playhouse.

It’s a good while since the Northern Sinfonia was represented at the Playhouse, and the Alnwick Music Society concert given by the string principals on May 14 was a welcome return, with a well-filled auditorium.

The first half consisted firstly of Shostakovich’s Two Pieces for String Octet, an early piece of his, but showing the clear marks of his later style. The two movements were an elegy and a furious scherzo of the kind we are familiar with in his symphonies. This 1925 composition was followed by a recent work by a contemporary composer, Brett Dean’s Epitaphs, portraits in sound of several departed friends. In some ways it was an unusual piece, and I don’t know whether the audience liked it, but the applause showed a willingness to listen and appreciate it. There was no doubt that the players excelled in presenting both quite tough works in the best light. The second half took us into more comfortable waters with wonderful performances of music from a young wunderkind and an old man’s autumn offering. Richard Strauss’s beautiful Sextet from his opera Capriccio provided us with a stream of warm lyricism and Mendelssohn’s superb Octet was delivered with elan, more than enough to send us home enriched from a concert of the highest quality.

By Rev Martin Gilham