After a wet and chilly Saturday, Portsmouth Cathedral was warm and welcoming. Although I have attended many concerts by the Solent Symphony Orchestra (SSO), there was a definite air of anticipation from both audience and players alike that something special was ensuing.
The larger than usual orchestra opened the concert with the Nationalistic Sibelius classic, his Symphonic Poem, Finlandia. The orchestra's playing was tight under Steve Tanner's expert direction and conveyed sensitivity and power, enhanced by the Cathedral's acoustic.
Then, the first of the evening's highlights. The violin concerto in D Major by Joannes Brahms. This work is technically formidable and a challenge for any soloist but violinist, Catherine Lawlor tackled the work seemingly with ease. Her performance was energetic and also superbly sensitive with the high notes singing beautifully around the building. The orchestra could so easily have dominated but again, Tanner's control allowed the the soloist to shine and the audience certainly showed their appreciation for this young, superbly talented soloist.
Following the interval, the SSO was joined by the cathedral organ, expertly played by David Price, in Saint Saens Symphony No3 – aptly named, the organ symphony. Many listeners would recognise the main theme as it was used extensively in the film Babe and its sequel. For many, this work was also a highlight of the evening. It is full of wonderful melodies, beautifully played by the strings and especially flute and oboe. The addition of the organ in the slow second section gave a wonderful depth to the sound which could be 'felt rather than heard'. Finally, the opening of the last section, the full organ plus the full orchestra sent shivers down the spine. Keeping the orchestra and organ together is no mean feat for the conductor but the evening was brought to a successful and exhilarating finish.
It is a privilege to listen to such local talent and so,if you have not heard the orchestra before then watch out for their next concert in March 2019 featuring some of the guitar music of Rodrigo, played by Zoe Barnett.