In the space of just a few short months, Christopher Braime, the second of three Petersfield Orchestra guest conductors this season, succeeded in the course of preparing a varied and alluring programme in imposing his own stamp on the orchestra.
That the orchestra grew apace under his leadership was evident from its manifest unity: the clarity of the various voices, the equilibrium of the dynamics and the rapport with the evening’s soloist.
This much was apparent from the Schubert’s Overture in the Italian Style, where the voices of clarinets and flutes in particular were allowed to expand in a manner reminiscent of Italian Bel Canto – the work being, as we could not help but be reminded, one result of Vienna’s new-found enthusiasm all things Rossinian.
In the First Horn Concerto of Richard Strauss, soloist and orchestra were as one, helped by the talented Richard Stegall who combined sonorous projection with elegant musical articulations. The result was a genuine dialogue, and unexpectedly the orchestra sometimes was able to ring out subtly like a non-brassy fanfare.
In the Suite from ‘Le roi s’amuse’ by Delibes, Christopher Braime had evidently worked hard to underline the individual character of these six short pieces – their French titles evoking the 17th century of song and dance, slightly reminiscent also of the mazurkas of Chopin in the varied contours of their contrasting rhythms and timbres.
Delius’ exquisite miniature ‘On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring’ saw the conductor in a more relaxed mode: Christopher Braime underscored Delius’ fascination for Norway and that country’s bucolic allure. Perhaps he was guided by the well-known links between Delius and Edvard Grieg.
Perhaps only the final work in the concert did not come up to expectation, or maybe I am influenced by Otto Klemperer’s interpretation of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra, in spite of Christopher Braime’s rhythmic strictness, dynamic balance between piano and forte, calmness and precision of his direction yet with no lack of overflowing bonhomie. For me, an element of fervour seemed lacking.
What a concert! Bravo to all concerned!
Pierre Tran, Petersfield Post