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MyShrewsReviews: Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra Autumn Concert
01 Dec 2022

Andrew Petch reviews the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra in fine form and taking on some huge works last night - Poulenc, Carwithen and Vaughan Williams, including a Concerto for Two Pianos performed brilliantly by John Moore and Vincent Barrella. Picture: Andy Bell Photography

As we ease into the Christmas season, Shrewsbury has an amazing variety of music on offer-really something for every taste.

Last night, John Moore conducted the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra in a highly original programme. A concert overture by Doreen Carwithen opened the proceedings. The conductor's introduction invited us to imagine the sea off Bishop’s Rock (the title of the work) in all its moods from deceptive calm to raging, terrifying storm. It is an example of the composer’s talent for film music which gave every section of the orchestra the chance to shine - and how they all took their chances! 

The Alington Hall’s acoustics are not entirely equally sympathetic to each section of the orchestra; the brass instruments played with enormous enthusiasm but there was sometimes a slightly abrasive edge to their sound whereas the lower strings had a glorious resonance which was especially appropriate in the 4th Symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams. 

Before RVW’s mighty symphony we had a deliciously sparkling performance of Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos in which John Moore and Vincent Barrella were the soloists, while Alan Atkin took over the conductor’s baton. Poulenc’s obvious love for the music of the past is always clear, especially Mozart whose compositions Poulenc loved above all others. His self description as 'wildly eclectic' seems so right!

Incredible to believe that RVW’s 4th symphony and the Poulenc concerto received their premieres within three short years of each other; the concerto frivolous, the symphony a monolithic work conceived in one of the darkest times in the history of Europe.

John Moore’s informative and impassioned introduction to the symphony was appreciated. The percussionists were superb in this stark work, which was a contemporary of some equally searing works of Shostakovich and which reached a resounding, sudden conclusion.

John Moore conducted with great insight into three complex and important works. He is to be congratulated on bringing his orchestra to a such a high standard.