The Royal College of Music String Band made a welcome return to Oundle to play a diverse programme of works with Oundle musicians in one of the most remarkable concerts in recent years.
The concert opened with a colourful and sensitive account of Poulenc’s masterful Organ Concerto. The RCM String Band created a vivid tonal landscape in support of a commanding and well coloured performance by Quentin Thomas, Director of Music at Oundle. The dramatic pacing and interchange between the organ and strings was directed with great artistry by Mark Messenger, Head of Strings RCM.
This was followed by a compelling account of Shostakovich’s highly autobiographical Chamber Symphony. This piece is a reworking of his 8th string quartet by the conductor Rudolph Barshai. Dramatic pacing was exemplary and the full range of tonal intensity available within a string orchestra playing at such a high level, was breath-taking. The cello solo, taken from Shostakovich’s troubled opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was played exquisitely by the principal cellist and recent string class finalist in BBC Young Musician of the Year.
In the Beethoven Eroica the RCM String Band merged with Oundle School Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Angus Gibbon, Head of Strings Oundle, sitting side-by-side in an orchestra with a string section of the size unparalleled in any professional setting (22 first violins, 26 second violins, 12 violas, 14 cellos, and 7 double basses). Those audience members sitting at the front were hit with a wall of sound that few would ever have experienced before. The scale of the first movement is monumental and the concentration levels required from all of the players supersede any activity in normal school life.
Led by Jerome Broun, Head of Woodwind, the contributions of the wind and brass sections were highly impressive in an exemplary performance of a notoriously challenging work.
The concert concluded with a performance of two movements from Handel’s Firework Music. The orchestra was further augmented with a section of nine oboes, three bassoons and nine trumpets. The sound was majestic; Handel himself would have been impressed. As the final chord sounded, the audience in the Chapel was encouraged to join the rest of the school community to enjoy the fireworks display for November 5th.