All French affair at latest concert

TAYSIDE Symphony Orchestra was founded 20 years ago by Ron Walker, who has been its conductor since the first performance in 1993.

Over these two decades, he has built a reputation for developing well-thought- out and varied programmes.

The concert in the Reid Hall, Forfar, on Saturday evening was no exception.

The programme was an all-French affair - ‘Soirée de la Musique Française’ - with works by Offenbach, Bizet, Charpentier and Chabrier.

The energy and balance of the orchestra was indicative of the enthusiasm and willingness displayed by the players throughout the concert.

The evening opened with Ron Walker’s arrangement of Charpentier’s ‘Fanfare’ from ‘Te Deum’ which contained a sublime full-bodied sound.

Offenbach’s ‘Die Schöne Hélèna’ Overture followed and from the first bars, the atmosphere of a Parisian street with outdoor cafes and melodic tunes drifting through the air, set the tone for the evening.

Bizet’s Symphony No. 1 concluded the first half of the programme.

The most famous theme is the mournful, exotically haunting oboe melody from the Adagio second movement. This elegant melody, sparsely accompanied by pizzicato strings, was beautifully played. This symphony demands skilful playing throughout, especially by the strings which makes it a very difficult piece to perform well, even for players of professional standard, and so a word of praise to the TSO strings would not be out of place here; their highly commendable contribution, allied to the proficient woodwind, brass and percussion which TSO boasts, led to the overall success of this performance.

This was a real team effort which must have pleased both players and conductor alike since, as has just been said, it is a very difficult piece.

Nevertheless, it is, and most certainly always will be an audience-pleaser.

Ten years after the first performance, TSO Wind was formed by a group of experienced wind players, and over the years they have given many performances for charity purposes.

The breadth of tone colours achieved by the group in Gounod’s ‘Petite Symphonie for Wind’ - pairs of clarinets, oboes, horns, bassoons and solo flute - displayed an overall character of elegant conversation which the work features.

From the slow introduction to a lively allegro and a slow movement like an operatic air for flute over sonorous winds, the piece is hauntingly beautiful.

The final scherzo is filled with exuberance, varied rhythmic figures and musical ideas that are passed from one instrument to the next throughout the movement.

If any piece of music will woo music lovers, it is Bizet’s ‘Carmen Suite No. 1.’ The orchestra really captured the Spanish and Gypsy dance rhythms, the glorious melodies and highlighted the sparkling orchestration by the composer.

As for Chabrier’s ‘Joyeuse Marche’, it is indeed joyous, even comical.

Chabrier interrupts a high-stepping march with little tongue-in-cheek quotations and technical surprises.

The spirited good fun from this piece, filled to overflowing with bold and colourful innovations, audacious harmonies, novel and quirky instrumentation was well received by an appreciative audience.

This was an evening where the audience could, at least for a couple of hours, feel that they had experienced a little taste of summer!

The TSO’s next concert takes place in the autumn, the orchestra joining with Angus Choral Society and Cecilia Choir, Dundee on Saturday, September 22, to present Haydn’s ‘St. Nicolas Mass’ along with Schubert’s ‘Rosamunde’ Overture and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Op. 55 (Eroica).

This performance will again take place in the Reid Hall, Forfar.