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REVIEW Welsh Sinfonia, Dora Stoutzker Hall.

Byline: Peter Wagstaff

THE Welsh Sinfonia returned to the Dora Stoutzker Hall on Saturday, senza conductor, for a concert of Baroque + More, led from the first desk by the inimitable Prof Robin Stowell.

The opening statements of CPE Bach's first symphony were lacking declamation, not to mention intonation. The piece was disappointingly devoid of spark.

Apparently all they needed was the superior music of Bach senior. Stowell and the talented Gillian Taylor took the limelight in the great composer's concerto in D minor for violin and oboe. While virtuosity wasn't lacking from either , Stowell could have thrown his soloistic weight around a little more.

The real star of this concert wasn't Stowell after all, but early baroque composer Heinrich Biber. The piece was La Battalia, and the audience should be forgiven apprehension when a piece is precluded by the words "trust me, it's supposed to sound like that" But what fun it was! An atonal cacophony of a second movement, a double-bass converted into a snare drum (through use of paper between the strings) in the third, musket-like snap pizzicato in the sixth, and shameless glissando in the last.

There was a touching sentimentality to Geminiani's concerto grosso, but intonation gremlins were around once more. This was beginning to feel like a concert of polarised pieces - those played musically and in tune, and those not.

Marcello's oboe concerto in C minor was again on the slow side, making the unison statements lugubrious, but Taylor made it dance.

Mozart's Divertimento in D was the first and last expedition out of the baroque, and a worthwhile one it was too. It was during this piece that a second violinist, the last person you'd expect to be enjoying themselves, seemed to be doing just that. This made me realise what this performance was lacking. Come on Welsh Sinfonia, give us a smile.

Peter Wagstaff
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 12, 2012
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