Review: November 2021 ‘Heroes’ concert.

Jacob Bride’s ‘Der Trommler’ positively crashed into existence on the stage of Saffron
Walden Concert Hall on Saturday night. The imposing horse-man-machine sculpture of the
same name (in Tate Britain) on which this opus is based, giving ample ammunition for the
war inspired themes of this SWSO commissioned work. A perfectly coordinated percussion
section, arranged in stereo with a battery of weapons, held us in anticipation of the next
rhythmic strike. Almglocken (Alpine cowbells) deployed shoulder to shoulder with
hammered steel girders and glockenspiel, maintained tension throughout. Lower
woodwinds delivered deliciously sinister growlings on matched pairs of bass clarinets and
bassoons. Heroic French horn assertions and deft saxophone mournings, rose from a
charred battlefield of low muted brass and strings. Faultless flautists presented low range
chromatic murmurings, later giving way to crisp piccolo duetting, accompanied by
hauntingly distant snare drum. I dare say inspiration for this creation may have been drawn
from Neil Peart’s ‘Der Trommler’ drum solo; either way, Bride has a penchant for percussion
which he deploys with great skill in this arresting piece. As always, the orchestra were
guided magnificently by Richard Hull.
Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto needs little introduction, as does our soloist in these
parts. Having reviewed Stephen Smithers nine years ago, before Saffron Hall even existed, I
am delighted to see that he has gone from strength to strength. In a nutshell, Smithers was
mesmerising at the keys, supported sensitively by a dreamscape of beautiful orchestral
tones: cellos ebbing and flowing as one; clarinets eloquently rendering their song; and
muted violins and violas laying down a path of petals before the piano. With Hull at the
helm, a wonderful synergy between orchestra and soloist was achieved; a joy from start to
Philip Glass has sought to honour a myriad of genres and styles through his experimental
work in the field of minimalism, for over five decades. His film music is noteworthy, and he
continues to remain a respected composer amongst ‘pop’ and ‘classical’ lovers alike.
Symphony No. 4 “Heroes” is a resurrection of themes from David Bowie and Brian Eno’s
collaborative album of the same name. The orchestra journeyed though this maze of
mathematical wizardry with verve and precision, held together with tenacity by the man
with the magic wand.
In all, an alluring and unique concert of the familiar and unfamiliar, once again displaying
the versatility and courage of this Saffron Hall worthy Orchestra.
Nathan Collins ©2021

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