Warming winds for winter at Sidmouth theatre

PUBLISHED: 14:54 03 December 2010

Galliard Wind Ensemble deliver heartening concert at Sidmouth’s Manor Pavilion Theatre

SATURDAY evening presented Sidmouth with a suitable way of beating off the effects of the cold with a heartening concert by the Galliard Wind Ensemble given in the Manor Pavilion Theatre.

The wind quintet, formed in 1993, when its members were students at the Royal Academy of Music, opened the concert with a bright and breezy version of Mozart’s overture for The Marriage of Figaro.

Although the arrangement was modern, written in 1984, it follows an historic tradition, of reducing orchestral works to a form suitable for performance at social events, parties or meals, a process to which Mozart himself would have contributed.

The first half continued with pieces by Ligeti (Six Bagatelles from 1953) and Nielsen (Wind Quintet from 1922).

Given their provenance and relative modernity one could have been understood for expecting something sterner here, but both pieces proved to be melodic and very approachable, performed sensitively and with touches of humour from the players, not least a story from bassoonist Meyrick Alexander about Nielsen’s missing Concerto for Bassoon “…he wrote on the manuscript ‘Bassoon Concerto’, put his pen down, went to bed and never got up again”.

The second half opened with Samuel Barber’s Summer Music. Possibly best known for his Adagio for strings, here Barber wanted to portray the intense sultry heat “…of drowsy afternoons”, and for a short while happily dispelled all thoughts of the cold outside.

Percy Grainger wrote Walking Tune from a melody he had hummed and whistled to himself on a Scottish walking holiday in 1900, and the Galliards presented well its jaunty charm, evoking a happy walk through the Scottish glens.

Then followed Malcolm Arnold’s Three Sea Shanties based on the traditional tunes What shall we do with a drunken sailor?, Boney was a warrior and Johnny came down from Hilo.

The group enthusiastically brought out the shifting rhythms of rumba and tango as the exuberant melodies passed equally amongst flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon.

Perhaps the Galliards themselves stole the show in their closing piece, Luciano Berio’s wittily named Opus number Zoo.

The work is almost a staged opera in itself, requiring not only characterful playing to depict the animal scenes being recounted, but contributions from each player in the form of spoken lines and a highly amusing enactment of their observation of the final show down between the fighting tom cats.

This thoroughly enjoyable performance closes the first half of Sidmouth Music’s season, which is proving to be every bit up to the enormously high standard which these concerts unfailingly present.

The next in the series is in the New Year with classical guitarist Andrew Booth playing in the council chamber Knowle on the afternoon of Saturday 8th January; Praetorius, JS Bach, Albeniz, Villa-Lobos, Porter, Strayhorn and Bellinati - a treat for all lovers of the guitar. £12 tickets available soon in Paragon Books and elsewhere. (Euterpe)

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