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Dark side of a celebration; Academy of St Martin In The Fields Symphony Hall.

Celebrating the 75th birthday of its founder, Sir Neville Marriner, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields brought an appropriately attractive programme to a Symphony Hall itself celebrating the anniversary of its first public concert already eight years ago.

Not that the offerings were without their darker side, valediction and melancholy coming through Mozart's sublime Clarinet Concerto and Mendelssohn's idealised Midsummer Night's Dream incidental music respectively.

Soloist in the concerto was Sir Neville's son Andrew, who, despite appearing somewhat uncomfortable, delivered a wonderful account of a work we sometimes take for granted. Phrasing was fresh (matched in the supple orchestra), allied to a well-focussed, uncloying tone; emotional contours were perceptively coloured, as in the quietly affecting chalumeau sections of the adagio.

It is a long time since I have been so moved by a performance of this incomparable work. Not even a few tiredness-induced slips in the finale, nor the continuing problems Andrew Marriner had with damp crackling through his instrument could mar the persuasiveness of this delightful reading.

Marriner pere's urbane conducting span a web of enchantment in a delicious presentation of the complete Dream music. The ASMF Chorus sang lightly, persuasively, with two well-chosen soloists; orchestral horns brought all the nocturnal magic of Mendelssohn's scene-painting, and the Wedding March was unsentimentally brisk and muscular.

Christopher Morley
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Author:Morley, Christopher
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 17, 1999
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