European Union Chamber Orchestra, St David’s Hall 

May 3, 2019 by

We’re all fed up of politics at the moment. Though the opportunity to see a great success story coming out of the EU is pleasant. Music making can unite us after all.

Through these themes of unity, the varied programme featured American and European composers. This small group of musicians (who stood for the entire show, bar celli and double basses) play with a tight determination, a ringing musicality that never falters. Led by leader Hans Peter Hofmann, he plays as if his life were on the table, passion and then some for this perfectly programmed concert. The music of Peter Warlock is new to me. This British composer who killed himself at a tragic age left us with some fantastic songs and other work. Here in his Capriol Suite, there is glances back into the past but filled with daring vitality and crisp string writing. More of his music must be done and we are touched by the orchestra for their “controversial” choice of having a British composer on the programme.

The main event was Emma Johnson playing Mozart’s Clarinet Concert. This is a personal favourite and never did a moment lose any style nor grace from Johnson and the players. Her charm and genuine talents are what made this almost half an hour a heaven-sent encounter. The clarinet is part of her, an extension of her being, made glorious by the sublime music by Mozart. The famous Adagio is a blissful joy, with a softy controlled command from Johnson. An encore of more Mozart only went on to prove his more so. This is a musician who is highly appealing in music and in character. Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings is most familiar from Platoon and The Elephant Man. Aaron Copland said it best about this piece: “it’s really well felt”, defined by the chamber players on this evening. It’s a breathless pang of grief, with brief moments of exoticism and wallowing. It shall never fail to make an effect on an audience. In Haydn’s 44th Symphony “Trauer” we ended with a jumpy journey with the players in pleasing ways. Haydn being so proud of this work, he wanted the slow section at his own funeral. The playfulness is what makes this like many of his other works, making you hungry for more. An encore appears to have been planned, but instead we heard the final of the symphony again (a welcome addition).

Even with politics as fraught as they are, we would gladly welcome these pristine players back any time.

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