Ensemble play with poise and elegance

Posted by on Apr 5, 2014 in Reviews | 0 comments

By Lizzie Perring

Warwickshire’s Oriflamme Chamber Ensemble, under the musical direction of Antoine Mitchell, gave an engaging performance of Haydn and Brahms this weekend in support of the Lord Mayor of Warwick’s Charity. The audience at the Collegiate Church of St Mary in Warwick included a “chain gang” of local mayors and mayoresses.

This annual charity concert took on added poignancy due to the sudden loss of much-loved local musician Rita Dawkins, leaving an empty seat among Oriflamme’s first violins. A tribute from the Mayor of Coventry highlighted Rita’s tireless work for the Charles Barratt Foundation, supporting young people in Coventry to achieve their musical ambitions. The orchestra played Elgar’s “Elegy for Strings” in her memory before continuing with the planned programme.

Haydn’s “Oxford” Symphony was delivered with suitable poise and elegance. The wind section of this chamber orchestra had many delightful moments of clarity. In a chamber performance everything is visible and the music is easy to follow as themes are passed to and fro. Haydn may be regarded as simple and naive by some, but he is enchanting in the detail and this performance was well-drawn and balanced.

The mellow tone of Lindsay Martin’s flute was breathtaking in Faure’s Pavane, and well supported by the clarinets and oboe. Antoine Mitchell guided us into the music, revealing counter melodies in this piece that are not always apparent.

Brahm’s Serenade No. 1 in D Major is an early work, but with six movements it has the bulk of a symphony. As a musical educator, Mitchell challenged both musicians and audience to engage with the musical tapestry of a Serenade unfamiliar to many. The music seems at times to be exploratory: young Brahms is audibly working up his big ideas. We get a pastoral feel with broad open themes and there are moments when the music disintegrates into shards before reconstructing itself. All of this requires an authoritative blending of orchestral textures. Special reference should be made to the taxing horn parts and the joy of their marshalling call.