THE spring concert took of the Jersey Symphony Orchestra took place last night (Saturday 12 April) at Fort Regent, Jersey.
There must be many definitions as to what the term ‘civilisation’ might mean, but surely one of the best must be the capacity of a community to create a symphony orchestra. The majority of the members of the Jersey Symphony Orchestra are musicians living in the Island, augmented by visitors, who are given hospitality by local families while they are in the Island. It is a combination not only artistic but also sociable, and the quality of the productions is always impeccable.
The spring concert has a reputation of being of being the most serious of the concerts staged by the JSO during the year. It was certainly music to exercise the little grey cells. The concert had two ‘twin peaks’ – if readers will excuse the reference to that curious television drama of yesteryear. The first peak was the virtuoso performance by violinist So-Ock Kim, who was the soloist in Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor. The second peak was the Symphony No 5 in D Minor by Shostakovich. Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture completed the trio of works that made up the concert.
None of the pieces were happy or optimistic, exactly. Coriolan describes the same story as Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and the music fits the tragic storyline.
The Sibelius concerto is very moving, but sad; Shostakovich’s symphony shows all too clearly the turmoil of an intelligent and thoughtful man living at the time of – and trying to survive – Stalin’s terror.
The beauty of Sibelius’ music was enhanced by the exquisite playing of the soloist. The programme notes describes the concerto as: ‘a masterpiece that combines soloistic brilliance with symphonic proportions’ – a comment on which I cannot improve but which I totally endorse.
The Shostakovich symphony did, as expected, remove me away from my classical music comfort zone – in which Shostakovich does not really feature. So often his music seems only fleetingly to attain melody before sinking back into dissonance and sadness… but then that is, I suppose, a brief but succinct description of the human experience – and certainly a description that must have been true of life in Soviet Russia in the 1930s.
However, the orchestra’s rendition of his Fifth Symphony was outstanding: a great experience for both members of the audience and the orchestra. Terror, oppression, sadness, humanity and regret.. they were all there. A most memorable performance – and a rousing one.
‘Are you able to hear anything after all that?’ asked a friend whom I met as I made my way from my seat to the exit door after the concert.
At least I think that is what he said.
The concert was conducted Philip Ellis, the principal conductor of the orchestra, and among the list of sponsors was Deutsche Bank and Jersey Electricity plc.
The next concert takes place in Saturday 9 August; it is the ‘Last Night of the Proms’ concert and is titled ‘Hollywood Swing’. The orchestra is nothing if not versatile, it seems.
Picture of the Jersey Symphony Orchestra above by Jooj duQuemin