S.C.O.W. started the year, a season some thought might never be realised, due to arts funding cutbacks and a major reduction in other funding, with a glorious sweep of music at Christ Church Cathedral, where the Wexford Sinfonia provided a crowd-pleasing programme in musical cinemascope and technicolour.
It is ironic that SCOW continues and the venue has had its small (€15,000) funding cut completely and looks like ending its Coffee Concerts etc. after this Spring Programme. Having achieved a major success in building an audience for Sunday concerts, they were savaged.
I like the Wexford conductor, Fergus Sheil, as he talks to his audience and provides aspects of work that increases enjoyment.
Vlata (The Moldau) by Smetana opened with a pastoral panorama of a river of folklore and nationalistic legend. Yet, despite its triumphal nationalism, the music is based on a Swedish folk melody. This was familiar surging currents of strings, uplifting brass, a shimmering harp under the light from a large moon over the city. There were crashes of percussion and a glorious cinema travelogue feel to it all.
The soprano Sinead Campbell pleased with a soaring Four Last Songs from the Nazi favourite, Richard Strauss, who is enjoying a return to political correctness in some quarters. Campbell caught the crisp air of Spring, the melancholy of September and the maudlin emotion of At Sunset.
After the interval, it was a glorious wallow in the Beethoven Pastoral with its lush symphonic sound and familiar lyricism. I heard people near me humming the popular movement. Beethoven said – the meaning of the work is obvious with verbal description. But I loved the sweep of nature, the broad-brush painting of landscape – gentle strings, interludes, romantic dance then the mother and family of a thunderstorm. Legend, says Beethoven, died and shook his fist at the storm.
Next up with SCOW is more Beethoven and beautiful violinist Nicola Bnedetti with RTE NSO, 26th March at Waterford Institute of Technology.