On Sunday evening,  25th March,  a capacity audience was  entertained,  yet again,  to a classical concert in the STRATFORD-ON-AVON ARTSHOUSE –   by the sixty strong  STRATFORD – ON – AVON  SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA.   This orchestra is amateur,  its members  unpaid  (just exercising their hobbies).  But in performance they are professional,  led by their inspiring young conductor, Dan Watson.   Some of the players drive  long distances  to weekly rehearsals,  and termly concerts .

The orchestra was joined by clarinet soloist Anton Clarke-Butler in Mozart’s concerto for clarinet.  He is a charming and relaxed young player,  with a wicked sense of fun,  currently a post graduate student of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.  His performance  predicts a meteoric rise to international fame.

Dan, the conductor, also a former Birmingham student,  has the personality and skill to extract wonders from his orchestra, with the minimum of  gesticulation.  He  is setting a new trend in orchestral conducting , avoiding the  wind-milling “watch me” style , now  often fashionable, particularly if on the TV !

The programme started with Brahms nine  short variations on the well known  St.Anthony  Chorale, whilst warming up both players and audience for the two major classical works to come.   The varied styles of these nine short movements take one by surprise !  It is a lovely composition, which should be heard more frequently.

Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto followed.  This major work, whilst demanding  technical competence from both soloist and orchestra,  is in the easy-to-listen-to   style we expect from  Mozart.  We were     lulled into calmness – only to be awakened by some astonishing  phrases calling for technical wizardry, to which both soloist and orchestra  responded  brilliantly.

A brief interval was followed by the lengthy and challenging Symphony No. 5 in A minor of Mendelssohn.   This work illustrates the composer’s  skill in creating romantic music onto our heritage of Bach, whose music had always fascinated Mendelssohn.  Dan led the orchestra through this substantial and multi-themed major composition –  to the great delight of the audience, whose applause seemed never-ending !

Stratford is fortunate to have this amazing “amateur” orchestra to add to its Shakespearean  cultural heritage.


Geoffrey Holroyde.  26.03.2018.

Spring Concert Review 25th March 2018

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