Review: Rousing concert by the Isca Ensemble in Sidmouth

Clarinettist James Gilbert. Picture: Courtesy of James Gilbert

Clarinettist James Gilbert. Picture: Courtesy of James Gilbert - Credit: Courtesy of James Gilbert

There is no doubt that by virtually basing itself in Sidmouth, the Isca Ensemble, under the direction of Roger Hendy, has brought a great musical boost to the town.

Interesting programmes, with fine soloists to perform in them, have been an outstanding feature of their regular appearances.

Some have been young, being given a step up in their careers, whilst others have been more mature and established in theirs.

The soloist on Saturday, March 16, James Gilbert, a student at the Royal Academy of Music, was a case in point. His account of Weber’s Second Clarinet Concerto was both technically brilliant and lovingly presented, from the militaristic opening to the dazzling display of pyrotechnics with which it ends. The soloist and players also presented the gentle slow movement with great care and tenderness.

The orchestra gave just that necessary amount of support throughout the concerto, without overplaying its role.

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But it was a very different opening to the concert when the orchestra gave a swash-buckling account of the overture to Wagner’s early opera Rienzi.

With a full brass section making the most of its opportunities, the church reverberated to some great sounds. Again, played with verve, and creating a sense of excitement as the great plane was brought to life, Walton’s Spitfire Prelude and Fugue brought another brilliant musical perspective to the programme.

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To finish, there was another work making its premiere performance in Sidmouth – Shostakovich’s exciting First Symphony.

Its instrumental variety containing some beautifully played solos was well brought out by Roger Hendy.

Moments of inner depth and rousing fanfares, particularly in the final bars, brought things to a positive conclusion.

The concert was supported by the Joanna Leach Foundation.

The next Isca concert in Sidmouth Parish Church, on Saturday, June 8, features music by Rimsky Korsakov and Tchaikovsky’s powerful Fourth Symphony. The brilliant young Georgian pianist Luka Okros also returns to Sidmouth to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 21.

The orchestra has also invited to the UK Sergei Emelyanov, the renowned Concertmeister of the Tatarstan Symphony Orchestra in the Russian Federation. Yet another splendid programme to really look forward to!

John Dalton

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