EMG Symphony Orchestra April 2018 Concert: 150th Anniversary of Exeter RAMM

The concert had such an appropriate start with ‘Themes from Night at the Museum’. It was full of busy and beautiful percussion who were remarkably confident even when very exposed in difficult passages. The whole orchestra was very well controlled and balanced through a vast dynamic range.

Bees, sadly, may be endangered, but Wasps are not if the EMG rendition is anything to go by. There was good, clear and clean handovers of the tune as it ebbed and flowed around the orchestra from section to section and instrument to instrument. The Vaughan Williams score was beautifully, lyrically rendered and the changes of ‘mood’ were lovely.

Leo did not set out to arrange his chosen parts of the ‘Carnival of the Animals’ to make life easy or simple for the orchestra – but as ever EMG more than rose to the occasion, with majestic lions, ponderous elephants, cuckoos in the organ loft and more birds in the aviary, fossils seemingly played on the bones themselves, a very much alive, beautiful and gracious swan; altogether quite a menagerie, with both fine solo and ensemble playing throughout the orchestra.

Everyone it seems is looking for a ‘magic bullet’ for all sorts of ills in the world. Who knew that it was there all the time? It may be rarely performed as an opera but the Weber overture to ‘Der Freischütz’ certainly whetted the appetite, with its wonderfully performed horn section solo, and lots of excitement, darkness and light. Perhaps it is time for a new project for EMG; a non-staged revival?

One can’t help thinking that wonderful though the piano is, there is far more colour in the orchestrated arrangement of ‘Pictures’ giving us more of what the art gallery is about. It was noteworthy to hear that the orchestra managed to achieve that most difficult of things; to play the same or a similar passage on a number of occasions during a piece and make it sound new or different. The recurring theme did not give us a sense of ‘groundhog day’ here. Each ‘picture’ had its own darkness and light, colour and ever changing perspective. The final ‘Great Gate of Kiev’ was more of a triumphal entry and a triumph for EMG.

Throughout the concert there were almost countless solos and section solos or highly exposed, quiet passages during which a lesser orchestra would have struggled or lost confidence. It is testament to both the breadth and depth of EMG as well as the leadership of Leo Geyer that the players in all sections can play such challenging repertoire not only competently but so musically. It was a joy to be present!

(Concert review kindly submitted by Robert Sellers)