Review: Russia Romance to Ruin (2009)

“Since Ely Sinfonia was first launched in November 1999 by Arts Development in East Cambridgeshire (ADeC) with awards from the Millennium Festival Fund and the Eastern Orchestral Board, it has established itself as an artistic force to be reckoned with.

Those who were at all skeptical about the feasibility of combining amateur and professional performers have had to review their opinions considerably. There is no doubt that the orchestra is now among the best in the locality. The orchestra has presented a number of successful concerts on a grand scale as well as events for smaller ensembles.  Players of any age who are not yet at Grade 8 level are included at a series of Training Days coached by professionals.

In the concert in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 7th March the orchestra performed works by Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Rimsky Korsakov.

“Romeo and Juliet fantasy overture” by Tchaikovsky opened the evening and the phenomenal ability of conductor Steve Bingham was immediately apparent. Under his leadership entries were precise, the orchestra worked as a cohesive whole and the tenor of the music rose and fell deliciously in the familiar emotional themes of Tchaikovsky’s style.   The strings in particular produced a sonorous and rich tone.

This work was followed by a darker and more reflective “Chamber Symphony” by Shostakovich. In this composition the skill of the conductor and performers was made especially apparent by the way in which they created tension in moments of extended melancholy contrasted with cohesive violent interruptions.

The evening culminated magnificently with a fine performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opus 35 “Scheherazade”. This composer’s renowned skill at orchestration was fully explored by solo performers playing a wide variety of instruments as the tale of Scheherazade unfolded. Scheherazade was the wife of a revenge-seeking sultan who had vowed to marry a new wife every night and kill her the next morning. Scheherazade saved herself from this threatened execution by telling a never ending tale. The themes of the tale were beautifully explored. Scheherazade’s theme played on solo violin by Christina Everson, the leader of the orchestra, was particularly effective and memorable.  Solo oboe, flute, clarinet and harpist also excelled in their contributions. Meanwhile the precision of the orchestral groups under Steve’s command remained noticeably a constant and positive feature. The tremendous changes in dynamics swept the listeners along. It was easy to feel that one wanted to be right there inside the orchestra joining in with these impressive musicians expressing such moving sounds.    

Future events include a performance Bach Solo Cello Suites in The Lady Chapel, Ely Cathedral on Friday 24th April by Raphael Wallfisch, Honorary President, a Summer Concert in St. Andrew’s Church on 28th June, the Tenth Anniversary Concert in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 3rd of October and an orchestral workshop on 22nd November.”

 Dr Rosemary Westwell, Local Arts Critic