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City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra 'one of few where aspiring conductors can gain experience'

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The City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra performed in Cambridge on Saturday
The City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra performed in Cambridge on Saturday

The City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra (CCSO) played host to two guests during its performances of Weber, Dvorak and Brahms at West Road on Saturday (May 19).

Conducting Weber’s Overture to the opera Euryanthe, was the winner of the CCSO’s 2017 Young Conductors’ competition, Tess Jackson.

Tess, who is currently at Hills Road studying A-levels, and a student of CCSO’s regular conductor Robert Hodge, is aiming to take a place to study music at Clare College. She approached Weber’s brief but quite complex work with confidence, maturity and an obvious sense of enjoyment.

Although the opera is now rarely seen, largely because of the composer’s dissatisfaction with an under-performing librettist, its overture contains a variety of moods from the melodic to the hauntingly atmospheric, and Tess allowed the orchestra to display them all from the composition’s exciting opening to the virtuosity of its fugal finale.

Taking over the baton from Tess, and before the next item on the programme, Robert Hodge congratulated the CCSO as one of the few orchestras in the UK where aspiring young conductors can gain such valuable experience and take part in competitions of this kind.

Next on the platform was acclaimed, award-winning Hungarian violinist, Julia Pusker, to play Dvorak’s Violin Concerto.

Her approach to this rather infrequently performed and demanding concerto where the violin is rarely silent, was an object lesson in sustained concentration and inspired musicianship.

Julia absolutely inhabited every aspect of this lovely work which clearly spoke to her very soul from the poignant melodies of the first movement through the entrancing adagio to the sequence of exhilarating Bohemian dance-like rhythms of the finale.

The audience showed its thorough appreciation of a memorable performance, no doubt already eagerly anticipating Julia’s next performance with the CCSO in a year hence, when she is scheduled to play the Violin Concerto of Korngold.

A devotee of Dvorak’s music was Brahms whose third symphony, probably of the four his most admired, occupied the second half of the concert.

The CCSO gave a wholly convincing performance of this work where the tempo indications suggest a much brisker composition, although each of its four movements is in fact quite moderately paced.

The term ‘heroic’ earlier applied to the symphony, has failed to endure, but its subtle drama and at times dark atmosphere are created in the movements by a beautiful sequence of melodies – the tranquil chorale-like tune on the woodwind (2nd), the lovely melodic opening, like a gently swelling tide (3rd), and the unforgettable theme of the finale which ends quietly with a gentle recollection of the symphony’s opening motif.

This was a carefully designed and admirably performed grouping of significant nineteenth-century works, and the programme notes were, as usual, a helpful guide to interconnections between the composers performed and to their individual influence beyond their own time.

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