Ely Sinfonia members, under the directorship of Steve Bingham, were excellent on Saturday when they performed works by Bernstein, Gershwin and Aaron Copland in Ely Cathedral. They handled the tricky rhythms, rapid runs and sonorous harmonies with real aplomb. This orchestra has certainly come on a long way since it first started.
The star solo performer of the night was Martin Roscoe, a highly accomplished and experienced musician. He played Gershwin’s ‘Piano Concerto in F’ with calm assurance, using an amazing variety of touch and virtuosic technique that made the piece sparkle. He gave the impression of playing in three-dimensions, sharp melodic phrases being brought out clearly with other subsidiary phrases shaped carefully underneath. He had that special quality that only first class pianists have; he pulled back almost imperceptivity with Gershwin’s emotional passages so that every nuance of feeling was explored. When Martin said at interval that he enjoyed his visit to Ely Cathedral, I am sure we certainly enjoyed having him come and considering his wealth of knowledge of piano concertos it is to be hoped he comes again.
Of the purely orchestral pieces for the evening, Aaron Copland’s ‘Quiet City’ appealed to me most. This mostly quiet composition was performed very well, conveying exquisitely a serenity that created a magical atmosphere, stirring the imagination wonderfully.
Bernstein’s ‘Overture to Candide’ was colourful and expressive with the changes in dynamics brought out particularly well. In Aaron Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’, the performers gave a highly skilful and entertaining performance giving us fitting snippets of America that ended the evening perfectly. It was heartening to hear the well known tune ‘Simple Gifts’ included. (This tune is known to us as ‘The Lord of the Dance’.)
It was indeed a splendid evening. Ely Sinfonia’s next major event will be ‘Symphonie Metamorphosis’ with works by Hindemith, Ravel and Franck on 6 May 2017 in Ely Cathedral.