Review Archive

Older reviews from the local press.

Much to enjoy in the final concert of the Season
19 March 2011
Bruckner Psalm 150, BRAHMS German Requiem

The final concert of the searson with the Choir of the Musik-Institut Koblenz adding some 40 voices to the chorus, conducted by David Dunnett, started with Bruckner's Psalm 150. A real song of praise, it opened in percussive style which stretched the combined voices as they reached a triumphant concluding 'Alleluia'.

The main work, Brahms' German Requiem, uses texts from the Lutheran Bible. Setting the tone, 'Blessed are they that mourn' was sung and played with much feeling. There followed a dark and sombre section of emphatic singing with easily changed pace and mood. This heralded the commanding baritone soloist, Norwich-born James Rutherford, who displayed great vocal passion, and the operatic and powerful delivery of soprano Sarah-Jane Davies.

The Chorus might have listened a little more closely to each other to make 'How lovely are thy dwellings' more impressive before some joyous work in 'For the trumpet shall sound'. The Orchestra (leader Dominic Hopkins) was always firm but never overpowering and all forces became more reflective in the final chorus.

When they come down from their high C's they will all be pleased with their efforts in one of the most taxing of classical music choral compositions.

Michael Drake, EDP 21st March 2011
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Full auditorium for concert by Philharmonic
5 February 2011
KODALY Peacock Variations, SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concerto No.2, TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No.4

A full auditorium and popular programme inspired the orchestra (leader; Dominic Hopkins) under their recently-appointed and dynamic principal conductor John Andrews in Saturday’s concert.

Longer than more usual opening pieces, Kodaly’s Variations on a Hungarian Folksong (The Peacock) was full of colour with brass always to the fore, but with each instrumental section precisely defined.

Norwich-born Rupert Egerton-Smith was soloist in Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No.2 and while giving a markedly studious performance he was emphatic in his every move. Always rhythmic, the work is of perpetual motion.

Then part of a Scarlatti Sonata in D minor brought enthusiastic applause.

With the orchestra in fine form, after the opening fanfares they broke into the worried theme of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4 with conviction – a slight lapse in the bridge section being brushed aside- as the opening movement picked up to an impressive climax. A plaintive Andantino and neat, nimble pizzicato Scherzo led to a percussive climax – though one could still feel the composer’s ‘fate’ in the background.

Michael Drake, EDP 7th February 2011
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Musical risk that paid off handsomely
6 November 2010
MAHLER Symphony No 2 (Resurrection)

Never before performed in Norwich, Mahler's Symphony No. 2, the Resurrection, perhaps his most famous work, was a massive undertaking for the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus - a risk which paid off handsomely.

Timed to mark the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth, every nook and cranny of the stage and beyond at St Andrew's Hall was packed with the 260-strong orchestra and choir, augmented by members of the Academy of St Thomas, Norwich Pops Orchestra and the Mozart Orchestra and other strong local groups.

Catherine May (soprano) and Lowestoft-born Diana Moore (mezzo-soprano) gave performances of outstanding beauty, but it was the sheer scale of the production that most impressed - a testament to the skills of conductor Matthew Andrews - a fabulous debut for him.

An appreciative audience called the main protagonists back on to the stage three times.

More please!

Sarah Hardy, EDP 8th November 2010
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

You can see more about this concert on Diana Moore's blog here

A tremendous and thrilling performance
20 March 2010
VERDI Requiem

There is no escaping the fact that the Verdi Requiem is a musical colossus and within its genre a 'grande mess'. And yet, remarkably, its spiritual value can allow it to sit alongside the more gentle Requiems of say Faure or Durufle.

On Saturday evening the Orchestra (leader, Ben Lowe) with some brilliant brass and percussion, were on fine form throughout as were the Chorus - the whole meticulously conducted by David Dunnett - and the performance stood comparison with any. Not least was that so in the peaceful opening with good balance from all the forces.

Of the soloists soaring soprano Claire Seaton was outstanding with utmost clarity and impeccable control while mezzo Kate Symonds-Joy always produced warming tones. But despite singing with much feeling tenor Richard Edgar-Wilson and bass Jamie Hall were too often engulfed by both orchestra and chorus.

There was thrilling percussive attack in the 'Dies Irae' sections whenever they appeared as the work moved to the 'Lacrymosa' and what I felt was the heart both vocally and artistically. The 'Sanctus' was enthusiastically declamatory with the hushed plainsong bars of 'Libera me' on an ethereal plane before building to the climax of a tremendous performance which reached out to an appreciative sell-out audience

Michael Drake, EDP 22nd March 2010
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Refined playing from the Phil
13 February 2010
BAX Tintagel, ELGAR Sea Pictures, DEBUSSY Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, STRAVINSKY Petrushka

Just how good the Norwich Phil is at the moment was demonstrated by Saturday's taxing programme.

Beginning with Arnold Bax's tone poem, Tintagel, deservedly the most popular of his works, conductor Peter Britton drew accurate and well-balanced playing from the orchestra, especially the winds.

It is difficult not to feel a frisson of excitement when hearing Elgar's song cycle, Sea Pictures, performed in St Andrews Hall where, just over 100 years ago, the composer conducted the first performance. The one on Saturday was enjoyable enough, with mezzo-soprano Diana Moore giving a warm account of the solo part, though it needed a touch more imagination than either she or Britton provided to raise the performance above routine.

The orchestra produced really refined playing in Debussy's Prelude a L'apres-midi d'un faune, the winds creating just the right languorous atmosphere, the flute solo beautifully played by Anne Bryant. And finally a splendid performance of Stravinsky's ballet, Petrushka, in the original version of 1911.

Frank Cliff, EDP 15th February 2010
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

5 December 2009
SIBELIUS Swan of Tuonela, BRUCH Violin Concerto, RACHMANINOV Symphony No.2

Emotions ran high and instrumental colour was always vivid in Saturday's concert by the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Peter Britton and led by Dominic Hopkins.

Sibelius' Swan of Tuonela made an attractive overture. The haunting beauty of a Finnish lake at dusk was mirrored in rich, but hushed music, while the tones of Emma Penfold's cor anglais conveyed the character of the great bird, serene, stately and mysterious.

Helen Burslem, a former pupil of Ipswich School, was the soloist in Max Bruch's ever-popular First Violin Concerto. Bringing out the contrasts between lyric episodes and more gritty passages, she caught all the high spirits of the finale with its repeated patterns and bouncing rhythms that were echoed by the orchestra.

Romantic passions were also powerful in Rachmaninov's Second Symphony. A generously proportioned work, each of its four lengthy movements contained a wealth of material and a great range of moods.

In the rich scoring that allowed every section of the Philharmonic to show its qualities, Sarah Thompson's clarinet was a particularly attractive feature.

Christopher Smith, EEN 7th December 2009
Republished with permission of the Eastern Evening News (

8 November 2009
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, BUTTERWORTH A Shropshire Lad, BRITTEN Sinfonia da Requiem, ELGAR Give unto the Lord, PARRY I was Glad, PHILIP LEDGER Requiem

I did wonder at the wisdom of Sunday afternoon's concert being restricted (bar one) to early 20thC English works. But such was their extraordinary diversity that it was an unfounded fear.

The exception was Sir Philip Ledger's 'Requiem'. Sub-titled 'A Thanksgiving for life' it was first performed only two years ago and Sir Philip, well-remembered as Director of Music at UEA, makes no attempt to outdo any other similar work and it largely follows the traditional mass setting.

Opening with a gentle solo flute, chorus and orchestra (conducted by the composer) take up the mood in Requiem Aeternum. The following Kyrie needed a more emphatic start and while the final Agnus did not exactly ring any bells the following Hosannas certainly did.

Soloists, soprano Alexandra Kidgell and Stuart Jackson (tenor) might have made more of their short contributions but in the round, whilst it is not spectacular it is a tuneful and really approachable work.

As was Britten's orchestral Sinfonia da Requiem (conducted by Peter Britton) and given a swaying opening emphasised by a marked and tolling rhythm. Percussion and brass have big parts to play and did so emphatically and the overall message was very well transmitted.

Parry's anthem 'I was glad' brought some rousing but controlled singing and the whole programme was enjoyed by an encouragingly large afternoon audience.

Michael Drake, EDP 9th November 2009
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

14 February 2009
BRAHMS Violin Concerto
BRUCKNER Symphony No 4 ('Romantic')

Conducted by John Andrews and led by Dominic Hopkins, the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra presented two works, both heavyweights, from the late 19th century.

Young, tall and eye-catching in her vermilion gown, Nathalie Shaw was the soloist in Brahms' Violin Concerto. The orchestra tended towards over-exuberance in the first movement. In the second, better balance allowed more opportunity to savouring deft fingering and attractive tone in a pensive music dialogue.

With its gipsy rhythms and open-hearted spirit, the finale had dash and swagger as the violin led the orchestra a merry dance.

Horns, soulful and poetic in phrasing as well as tone, introduced Bruckner's Romantic Symphony in its 1880 version. They featured again and again, with hunting chorals evoking rural scenes.

Trombones and the tuba, with trumpets putting an edge to the chorus of brass, made their stirring contribution next. The role of the strings was to provide contrast, quieter naturally and generally in more contemplative style.

The impact of the opening was especially powerful. But as the symphony went its hour-long way, the repetitive patterns started to become predictable and, despite the players' sterling efforts, the conclusion did not come across as a crowning climax.

Christopher Smith , EDP 16th February 2009
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

9 November 2008
IVES Variations on 'America'
JOHN ADAMS The Chairman Dances
GERSHWIN Rhapsody in Blue
DVORÁK Symphony No 9 (New World)

Conducted by Peter Britton, and led by Dominic Hopkins, the 73 instrumentalists of the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra opened its promising new season of concerts with a topical salute to America.

Charles Ives' Variations on America were an apt, if tongue-in-cheek choice for the occasion.

The composer had fun with the grand old tune, and the different sections of the orchestra enthusiastically seized opportunities to display their skills in William Schuman's 1964 arrangement of the score. The trumpeters, Ray Simmons and Bevin Mack, were bold and impressive.

John Adams' The Chairman Dances was a most amusing piece - a political cartoon in music that mixed Minimalism with a parody foxtrot in a smoochy, oriental atmosphere.

Norwich-born Rupert Egerton-Smith was the soloist in Rhapsody in Blue - George Gershwin's marriage of jazz and classical styles that always appeals. Although the accompaniment was sometimes heavy, the nimble pianist knew how to make the most of the catchy rhythms.

Dvorak's New World Symphony brought us back to familiar territory. The orchestra revelled in themes of yearning, and the quieter episodes bounced with vitality that was attractively tinged with melancholy.

The first half of the Largo came off particularly well.

Christopher Smith , EDP 10th November 2008
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

15th March 2008
ELGAR - Dream of Gerontius

In the year marking the 150th anniversary of Edward Elgar's birth, this well-loved work may become the most performed of all in British concert programmes. And on Saturday evening, the Norwich Philharmonic Society added their tribute with a performance of some stature.

It did not get off to a particularly auspicious start, with the wind a little awry in tuning in the first few pages.

But under David Dunnett's expansive conducting, there developed an emotional orchestral Prelude, followed in early declamatory style by tenor David Newman as Gerontius - a happy name coincidence to narrate Cardinal Newman's words - which later, as the Soul, he modified to a quite different and meditative vocal character.

Although using his wide range well, bass-baritone Richard Strivens lacked a real richness for the Priest's incantations, but the Angel of mezzo-soprano Diana Moore was both warmly comforting and spiritual. Behind them all, the orchestra (leader, Ben Lowe) always reflected the passion of the momentous circumstances.

Altogether, this was one of the best and most evocative collective Philharmonic concerts of recent times.

Christopher Smith , EDP 17th March 2008
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

11th February 2008
Performance that won our Admiration
SCHUMANN - Piano Concerto
MAHLER - Symphony No 5

Just two works made up a full programme.

In Schumann's Piano Concerto, the soloist was Piers Lane. At his most engaging in the more delicate middle movement, he was assertive enough throughout to make the work a genuine dialogue, except at the very end. There the balance was allowed to work against him.

The arrival of a full panoply of brass and a team of percussionists announced that the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Peter Britton and led by Ben Lowe, was about to embark on a major work. Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony fulfilled expectations.

Using every instrumental resource and with gigantic dimensions, it made a tremendous impact in its five extended sections, from the sinister, unrelenting tread of the opening funeral march to more swiftly moving sections that were themselves given ample space to develop.

Emotions were strong, the climaxes stirring and the instrumentation strikingly vivid and whole-hearted. In this context the centrally placed famous adagietto was particularly impressive for its restraint. It seemed to convey all the sorrows of the world.

Undaunted by every challenge that confronted it, the orchestra tackled the score that again and again left individuals mercilessly exposed. The concentration and sheer courage of the players won admiration.

At the end the conductor singled out the horn player Lynne Roberts and the intrepid trumpeter Ray Simmons for special applause, then acknowledged the contribution of each group in the orchestral family to a real achievement.

Christopher Smith , EDP 11th February 2008
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

5th November, 2007
Norwich Philharmonica (sic)
SIBELIUS Finlandia,
DVORÁK Cello Concerto
SIBELIUS - Symphony No 2

In its 167th year, the Norwich Philharmonic Society opened the new season with an orchestral concert on Sunday afternoon. Although there was some division of opinion, switching from the traditional Saturday evening seemed to be welcomed by most.

Led by Ben Lowe, the orchestra was conducted on this occasion by John Andrews. A striking figure with a fine head of hair and a voluminous frock coat, he showed the way with wide gestures, as well as an emphatic, incisive beat, always looking to stir powerful emotions.

The programme began with Finlandia. Its thrilling nationalistic fervour might have made all the more impact if the reflective passages had been taken rather more gently and allowed space to touch our hearts.

The soloist in Dvorak's Cello Concerto was Andrew Joyce, who was born in 1982 in Norwich, where he had his first cello lessons.
After the lengthy orchestral introduction, Joyce took his opportunity to reveal deft technique and attractive tone in one of the most popular works for his instrument.

Sibelius's generously proportioned Second Symphony with its patterns of great forces gradually, at times almost hesitantly, growing again and again to full strength, suited the players and their conductor to a T.

Christopher Smith , EDP 6th November 2007
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

27th May, 2007
Norwich Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra and Choir of Musik-Institut Koblenz
SCHUBERT Rosamunde Overture
BEETHOVEN Symphony No 8
SCHUBERT Mass in A flat

The final concert of Norwich Philharmonic Society's season yesterday evening, in a continuation of the long-established series of musical exchanges, saw the stage overflowing with instrumentalists and singers.

After a percussive opening, Schubert's Rosamunde Overture settled into the composer's tunefulness, from woodwind in particular. Not that Beethoven was averse to a tune or two in his Symphony No 8 in F and the orchestra (leader, Dominic Hopkins), conducted by Tom Seligman quickly correcting a small patch of untidiness, musically made light of many passages. But they were also able to make powerful interjections confidently and then enjoyed the Beethovian fun of the Scherzo, whilst harmonious horns had their share of it in the next movement. This was the precursor to a lively finale, precisely handled by an orchestra in fine form.

In the second half, Schubert's Mass in A flat, with the combined forces now conducted by David Dunnett, lacked impact to start with, as did the quartet of soloists. But was this just to prepare the listener for the exciting Gloria? The Credo followed in the same exultant vein until the Et Incarnatus centrepiece was reached. Not always does a Mass out of liturgical setting have a big impact - this one did.

Michael Drake , EDP 28th May 2007
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

February 12, 2007
WAGNER The Flying Dutchman Overture,
MOZART - Clarinet Concerto,
HOLST The Planets

A large audience packed St Andrew's Hall for an exhilarating concert by the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted on this occasion by Andrew Fardell and led by Fiona Hutchins.

The Flying Dutchman overture made immediate impact with waves of passion.

Next came Mozart's ever-popular clarinet concerto. Sarah Williamson was the soloist, blonde in her black dress and with a ready smile until she turned to the serious matter of putting every effort and every last drop of breath into her accomplished, meticulously prepared performance.

The Planets Suite offered an enlarged orchestra majestic opportunities for showing its prowess, with Tim Patient at the organ assuring the foundations. Imperious brass and pounding percussion brought passion to Holst's vivid score, though the strings could have done with richer tone in the more meditative sections.

Michael Drake , EDP 12th March 2007
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

November 4th, 2006
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS - London Symphony,
Malcolm ARNOLD - Tam O'Shanter, Return of Odysseus,
RACHMANINOV Spring Cantata

This concert celebrated the contributions made to our musical life by dedicated violinist and orchestra leader Colin Clouting and the prolific, Oscar-winning composer Malcolm Arnold.

Opening with his boisterous Tam O'Shanter overture showed this commemoration was not to be a mournful affair.

Under David Dunnett, the Philharmonic Chorus put energy and pathos into its interpretation of Arnold's Return of Odysseus, though the tone flagged a little in some of the longer phrases. Compressing Homer's long story into half an hour, the music went through a range of moods from despair to a gentle lullaby, cleverly switching from unison episodes to more complex passages as the mood demanded.

Some suggestions of the timbre of the lyre added local colour, and the composer knew how to indicate Greek civilisation was not always just sweetness and grace.

The singers also performed Rachmaninov's Spring Cantanta. The text, in Russian, linked personal emotions with the seasons as a man emerges from a winter of marital discontent to reconciliation as the cherries blossom. At his best in melancholy, Jonathan Brown was the baritone soloist.

Conducted by Adrian Brown and led by Dominic Hopkins, the Philharmonic Orchestra went about Vaughan Williams' London Symphony with a will. The first viola and the first horn distinguished themselves in brief, but important, solos and the timpanist brought panache and impetus.
Christopher Smith , EDP 6th November 2006
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

March 18th, 2006
KARL JENKINS - The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, ELGAR - Spirit of England
Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra, St Andrew's Hall, Norwich

With not a spare seat in sight, both the orchestra (leader Ben Lowe) and chorus (under the calm conducting of David Dunnett) produced a vivid account of Karl Jenkin's The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, which has become a favourite broadcast piece.

The percussion section in particular had a field day while the singers, although a little light on sopranos, made some emotional pleas. None more so than in the sections of the Latin Mass as the Kyrie and Sanctus, which were given a fine lilt, backed often by African-type rhythms. It is this amalgam of styles that makes the Mass universally acclaimed.

The piccolo's and snare drum's martial opening marked the beginning of the poignancy that was highlighted in the Charge! section - not one of the most exciting orchestrally or chorally but ending with a beautifully controlled trumpet Last Post.

Earlier, Fiona Hammacott was the soprano soloist in Elgar's less often heard Spirit of England. Over a forthright chorus its patriotism soared. Well-balanced unaccompanied choral work and the soloist's emotional choral singing led to those most feeling of words: “We will remember them”.

Michael Drake , EDP 20th March 2006
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

February 11th, 2006
TCHAIKOVSKY - Piano Concerto No.1, SHOSTAKOVITCH Symphony No.10
Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra, St Andrew's Hall, Norwich

Tall, energetic and confident, Jill Morton launched into Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto with the commitment demanded by this romantic music.

The Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Ben Lowe, was less successful in creating a good first impression, but quickly regained its poise.

After the drama of the first movement, the second offered a pleasant pattern of changing moods, while the features of the finale were the vigorous dance rhythms and a skilful crescendo.

The Russian theme was continued with Dimitri Shostakovich, whose centenary is celebrated this year. In his Tenth Symphony he gave expression to his artistic frustrations in Stalinist times.

The result, as we heard in conductor Russell Keable's persuasive interpretation, was a massive, passionate work. Little short of an hour long, it created the most powerful contrasts with all the resources of the modern symphony orchestra.

With the tempo marking “moderato”, the huge first movement was anything but moderate in spirit. After episodes full of dissonant vehemence, the instrumentalists revealed their class when adroitly switching styles for sections that were more conventional and lyrical.

The orchestra was unflagging in the brusque second movement, and in the third the horn players kept their nerve for their exposed, mercilessly repeated motif. The finale, though, was not quite a crowning climax.

Christopher Smith , EDP 13th February 2006
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

November 5th, 2005
First-Class Orchestral Work
Andrew LOWE-WATSON - Trafalgar 1805 (world première),
KHACHATURIAN Movements from the ballet Spartacus,
HINDEMITH Metamorphosen on themes of Carl Maria von Weber,

Undoubtedly the orchestra started Saturday evening's concert with a bang in Hindemith's Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria from von Weber and followed it with a jazzy Scherzo. Solo flute was beautifully woven into orchestral backing with impressive brass fanfares.

Lively performance continued in the first section of Khachaturian's Spartacus Suite, lush strings followed in the (Onedin Line) love duet as throughout these two opening works the Orchestra (leader Ben Lowe and conducted by Andrew Fardell) changed musical character with ease.

Norfolk-based composer Andrew Lowe Watson's 1805 Overture was given its premiere and was fully evocative of the naval conflict. Finely crafted and well interpreted, it built to a timpani Fusillade in the Battle - perhaps the Hearts of Oak theme was a little overused but it made a telling climax.

Donna Nobis Pachem set to Walt Whitman's telling poetry by Vaughan Williams showed the chorus (conducted by David Dunnett) to be well defined and reasonably balanced, although too often overcome by the orchestra. Soprano Harriet Fraser sang with clarity and Jozik Koc projected well his warm baritone with the final unaccompanied stanzas being thought provoking - again under first-class orchestral work. But it was another Saturday concert sparsely attended.

Michael Drake , EDP 7th November 2005
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

February 12th, 2005
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto,
RACHMANINOV Symphonic Dances,
PROKOVIEV - Pushkin Waltzes

Not often heard on the concert platform, Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances represented an interesting piece of programming on Saturday evening.

And it was made more so by conductor Russell Keable's descriptive insight into this untypical composition – his last orchestral work – with its large percussion section and alto saxophone among the forces picking up the fragments of tunes.

The longer melodious passages were delightfully dealt with by woodwind, in particular early in the first movement with the rest of the Orchestra's (leader Ben Lowe) silent, giving an eeriness against the following lush strings and bright brass

In the end the well balanced waltz of the Andante probably succeeded on points over the darker orchestral surroundings and a highly rhythmical and percussive finale was as exciting as one could wish for.

Fortunately the early distinct lack of tone and character soon went up a notch as the themes emerged and, with full and sure orchestral backing, it began to exude life and develop with assurance, culminating in a bravura display in the long cadenza

The central Canzonetta was serenely wistful while the finale contrasted the two themes to great effect until a flamboyant climax prefaces deserved acclaim

The other work, Prokofiev's Pushkin Waltzes, also had a low-key opening but settled into sedate waltz time marked by some fine woodwind playing.

Michael Drake , EDP 14th February 2005
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

November 6th, 2004
Bartók and Fauré open season
BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra,
FAURÉ Requiem

There was an enterprising start to the society's season as the orchestra (leader, Ben Lowe) chose the Concerto for Orchestra by Bartók.

Not surprisingly, as the composer lived the final years of his life there, this work seems to conjure more scenes of America than of his native Hungary.

It was given a fine start by a haunting flute and later a series of woodwind and brass duets which contained much sensitivity and humour.

Well-defined unison passages added to the relative starkness of the central of the five movements as a penetrating piccolo over quietly integrated strings vigorous dancing rhythms make the finale altogether happier with every instrument playing a confident part under tha positive guest conducting of Andrew Fardell.

A work which started as a virtual "charity" commission had a lot to say.

The Fauré Requiem is always popular and in the second half with David Dunnett keeping a smart pace, the chorus produced a finely balanced opening, simple gentility in the Offertorium and a well-judged censerial swing to the Sanctus. But this was a frustrating performance lacking in consistent confidence despite sympathetic orchestral accompaniment.

Michael Drake , EDP 8th November 2004
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

March 20, 2004
ELGAR The Kingdom

Gallantly resisting the lure of an easy, well known choice, the Norwich Philharmonic under David Dunnett earned the gratitude of music lovers with Elgar's The Kingdom.

This oratorio is less familiar than Gerontius, less sharply focussed and cannot rise to its climax in one great tune. All the same, there is power, even grandeur, in its reflections of religious feelings.

The orchestra had splendid opportunities with episodes from early parts of the Acts of the Apostles. The overture, extended and animated, created an impression of the emotional tumult of Christ's followers after the Crucifixion. At the end, the calmer instrumental conclusion showed anguish changed to understanding and thanksgiving.

In the role of St Peter, baritone Robert Rice rose to authority, and, as the Virgin Mary, soprano Claire Seaton maintained impressive steadiness of tone. The other two soloists were the fine mezzo Juliette Pochin and the tenor John Bowley, whose upper notes were not entirely persuasive.

The chorus had to show a certain versatility, as Christians at prayer, a mob in Jerusalem or a mystique choir.

Led by Ben Lowe, whose confident solo passage added depth, the orchestra gave to the climaxes the ring of Elgarian nobility.

Christopher Smith, EDP 22nd March 2004
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

February 14th, 2004
Symphonie fantastique indeed
DVORAK The Water Goblin
WAGNER Wesendonck Lieder
BERLIOZ - Symphonie Fantastique

Job satisfaction in the percussion section, especially for the four timpanists must rank very highly in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and after Saturday’s highly charged performance from the whole orchestra (leader, Ben Lowe), audience satisfacton, too, reached a high level.

Love was in the air for this Valentine’s Day concert, although it did not run particularly smoothly, nor were the waters the calmest in Dvorak’s Symphonic Poem The Water Goblin.

But as the music flowed through the heavily percussive section there was much more clarity.

Romance was also in plentiful supply in Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder.

One of the world’s leading dramatic sopranos, Elizabeth Connell, took it much further than the archetypal, fierce Wagnerian singers as vocal strength was allied to subtle and lyrical tenderness.

This was especially so in the Hot house and the final Traume.

There was also great sensitivity in the Symphonie Fantastique with just about room on stage for the augmented orchestra with a sure bedrock from cellos and basses in the opening movement.

The whole was kept on springs by guest conductor Tim Murray.

More percussive rhythms for the whole orchestra was a mere foretaste of the Finale. Symphonie fantastique indeed.

Michael Drake, EDP 16th February 2004
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press (

More recent reviews of the Philharmonic