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Orchestras Central - Comfortable Classical

Reviewed by Andrew Buchanan-Smart

Cambridge Autumn Festival 

Works by Gillian Whitehead, Debussy, J S Bach, Saint-Saëns, W A Mozart, Oliver Davis and Vivaldi.  

Soloists Lara Hall - Director and Violin, Rachael Griffiths-Hughes - Harpsichord, Martin Griffiths - Cello, Lisa lynch - Viola, Double Bass - Eric Scholes, Simon Brough - Bassoon, Flutes - Luca Manghi and Ashleigh Fraser

Comfortable Classical was an enjoyable concert to attend, in part because of the programming, but mainly because it catered for a really young audience. With the many preschool and primary school children present, accompanied by parents and grandparents, this was a real family event, with cushions, mattresses for seating and pictures of musical instruments readily available to be coloured in. The 70 plus in attendance were obviously enjoying the performances in a very relaxed atmosphere, absorbing this well designed and beautifully performed programme lasting one hour – ideal for the time of day and audience.

Gillian Whitehead’s Ngā hā o neherā: ‘a breath from the past’ for solo bassoon showed the full range of the instrument as well as the contrasting staccato and legato elements, and was seduced by the beautifully mellow timbres.

Debussy’s Syrinx for solo flute captured the warm evocative hues, vibrant tones and images of Pan. The contrasting dynamics were to the fore, with a finely controlled diminuendo to finish the work.

J S Bach’s Prelude in G from Cello Suite No.1 is possibly one of the most well known pieces for solo cello. Its expansive qualities were clearly to the fore here and were performed with expressive subtleties.

The Elephant, for the Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns, captured the wonderfully heavily wallowing elements, and appeared to be one of the children’s favourites.

Mozart’s Duo No. I G for Violin and Viola was full of character and captured the classical precision and balance with a very stylish performance.

The Tuesday Night Club for strings by Oliver Davis was light hearted with a dance feel that emphasised both pizzicato and syncopated elements.

J S Bach’s famous Minuet in G was performed on harpsichord with beautifully elaborated stylish ornamentation which enriched the performance.

There were many movements from Vivaldi works performed, of note was RV 533 Concerto in C for Two Flutes which was given a very elegant and stylish performance. This was a really lovely community concert for all the family to attend.