Waterford Music presented the Wexford Sinfonia – a 50-plus orchestra – in The Large Room, last Saturday 26th January. The orchestra occupied about half of the space, and while the sound, at times, clattered about the room, it was a gem of an evening with virtuoso piano work and a reflective Arvo Part, Fratres for drum, sticks and strings. The conductor, Fergus Sheil, spoke to the appreciative audience and added much to the overall enjoyment.
In the presence of the Mayor of Waterford, Cllr Mary O’Halloran, the evening started with a noisy but full throttle Overture from Humperdinck’s opera, Hansel And Gretel, which warmed up the players and audience. Finghin Collins gave a virtuoso performance full of passion, romance and emotion with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor and if, at times, the orchestra were too loud, the impact of Collins’ work was special and exciting. The opening Allego Con Brio was lyrical and linked well with individual instruments. At times the piano was divine with swirls and cascades of notes as the orchestra came back with ripples of strings. The Largo, with its solo piano opening, was sad and stately and the final Rondo Allegro was strong and expressive.
After the interval Sheil introduced Fratres by Estonian composer, Arvo Part. The strings stood all around the audience creating a much more involved sound and for about ten minutes we got a most reflective and almost hypnotic sound as bass and cellos created a sustained note like a hum. A drum punctuated the variations, as did two sticks struck together, while the rest of the strings played a continuing sequence with as much inner silence as sound. Part could be the Pinter of the orchestra as the tone changed from nihilism to a sad spirituality.
The evening ended with the Schubert Symphony No. 8, the most popular of his Unfinished works. The first movement was vigorous and noisy and the second and final one was slower and more reflective as stirring brass gave way to beautiful oboe passages and a slower more measured conclusion.
It makes you wonder why we have no Waterford Sinfonia or Orchestra .