REVIEW: Ensemble Reza, Horsham Symphony Orchestra and a dazzling world premiere in Cuckfield

From left: Jon Cherry, Steve Dummer and  Pavlos Carvalho after the premiere of Paper Tides. Picture: Melvyn Wa
From left: Jon Cherry, Steve Dummer and Pavlos Carvalho after the premiere of Paper Tides. Picture: Melvyn Wa

Ensemble Reza and Horsham Symphony Orchestra, Early Evening Spring Concert, Holy Trinity Church, Cuckfield, March 24

Every seat was taken by an all-age audience for an unforgettable evening of orchestral and chamber music, equalling the beauty of the church ceiling.

In Nicolai’s stirring overture to the Merry Wives of Windsor, Steve Dummer ensured that his Horsham Symphony Orchestra brought out all the ebullience and loud, galumphing Falstaffian swagger.

Verdi’s later Falstaff overshadowed his opera but Nicolai’s fat knight still cuts a comic caper.

The excited buzz at the interval was because we had just heard the best British interpretation of Elgar’s Sussex-inspired Cello Concerto since Julian Lloyd Webber’s 1985 recording.

Pavlos Carvalho faithfully followed Elgar’s instructions – “to musically explore the image of a man contemplating the meaning of life”. Notwithstanding an expansive approach, well supported by the orchestra, especially its strings, he conveyed resignation without sentimentality, reaching an anguished climax only after smiling, tender memories of a beautiful world and high musical reputation severed by World War I. The Adagio in particular illustrated Pavlos’s burnished tone and deceptively effortless technique.

The chamber music was revelatory.

Local composer Jon Cherry, with Pavlos, engagingly played the world premiere of his melodic, autumnal Paper Tides: Sonatina for Cello and Piano – ten minutes of sunshine, gales and leaf fall exchanged between piano trills and cello pizzicato. Surely soon an international favourite?

How to follow that? By Faure’s first Piano Quartet, which won chamber music a proper place in French musical life alongside opera. Its classical counterpoint and dazzling tonal effects deserve Wigmore Hall standards of ensemble playing. Delivering them, Ensemble Reza’s Andrew Thurgood (violin), Anna Cooper (viola) and Sarah Carvalho-Dubost (cello), with Nancy Cooley (piano), almost made us forget the Elgar, as they matched the classic Domus recording in tempo and accomplishment.

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