European Union Chamber Orchestra Review

The opening concert of Keswick Music Society’s 72nd season provided a feast of high octane string playing from the youthful and highly gifted European Union Chamber Orchestra. Directed with disciplined flair from the first desk by Alessandro Ruisi the band of thirteen immediately captured the spirit of Britten’s Simple Symphony – crisp articulation in the fast movements, suitable sentiment in the slow movement and commendably accurate pizzicato in the playful movement – a tricky number, not at all simple! The Frolicsome Finale was a tour de force with impressive climaxes and extrovert outbursts – when it was repeated as an encore at the end of the concert hair seemed to have been let down even further.

A gentle Nocturne by Fauré transported us to two works by Mozart. First came the Piano Concerto in A K.414 in which the soloist was the young Romanian pianist George Todica who clearly has an intimate rapport with Mozart. This was chamber music par excellence – the players simply enjoyed themselves listening and responding to each other in the most civilized way, underpinned by secure musicianship. We just eavesdropped, fortunate to savour the magic of Mozart.

The Divertimento in F K.138 started the second half – a delightful performance of Mozart in entertaining mode. Immaculate phrasing in the quick movements and plenty of tonal support from the middle parts in the Andante made all the difference to this enticing music.

Grieg’s Elegiac Melodies are meant to pull the heart strings and no one could have been disappointed with the EUCO’s attempt to do just that. From the first wistful strains suggesting a wounded heart this was playing of great sensitivity. Grieg’s seductive melodies drew the best from these young performers – in particular the expansive climax in Last Spring was a highlight of the concert. The evening ended in the plains of Hungary with Bartok’s Romanian Dances – originally music of unsophisticated people but now translated to concert halls around the globe. Fortunately we had the best of both worlds – fine string playing with a good dose of humour and wild spirits.

Review by John Upson