Saturday’s concert by the Winchester Symphony Orchestra, playing to a full house at New Hall, marked a great start to the new season. Starting with the Overture to Nabucco by Verdi, the orchestra played with discipline and verve under its new conductor Cathal Garvey.
This was followed by another great performance from the young pianist, Thomas Kelly, this time of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. Thomas gave a wonderful flawless virtuoso interpretation of this great popular romantic piano piece, well known for its intense and brooding tunes and its seemingly endless chromatic descending harmonies. It’s a popular work and the audience loved this performance, and the Thomas is developing a good following in Winchester.
After the interval, the orchestra returned with Dvorak’s 7th Symphony. This piece was written by Dvorak before he travelled to America, where he produced some of his most popular works. It’s a complex and difficult piece with some dense musical argument, showing Brahms’ influence in the orchestration, while also pushing the first violin section’s technique and cohesion. The pastoral second movement is generally regarded as the most popular, but the orchestra seemed happiest in the third movement, a striking and jaunty Bohemian scherzo, before moving on to the complex final movement.
Overall, Cathal Garvey produced a great performance from the orchestra. His background as a professional string player shows through and combined with his strong musical personality and lovely clear beat, his skills are clearly helping the orchestra develop a more rounded and confident string sound as it takes on more ambitious repertoire, such as the next concert on 26th March 2023, including the Britten violin concerto and Sibelius first Symphony.