What the papers say
MEADOWS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA / EVANS / WESTWELL
HUGH KERR | 8 JUN 2017
The Meadows Chamber Orchestra has been around for 45 years, during which time its concerts have gathered much critical acclaim. Tonight’s concert shows why. Under their conductor, Peter Evans, the orchestra of some 50 plus players demonstrate a high musical standard, which compares well to full-time professional orchestras.
The programme begins with a new work by New Zealand composer, Lyell Cresswell: The Rev Norman McLeod’s Dance. This is a vivid and colourful work, which tests the orchestra’s abilities to the full, and uses vibrant Scottish dance music (the irony being that the Rev Norman McLeod hated music and dancing).The first half concludes with a very solid rendition of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, played by the versatile Peter Evans, who conducts it from the piano.
The second half of the concert opens with Poulenc’s Piano Concerto, played by the brilliant young pianist, Jack Westwell, a student of Peter Evans and now completing his studies at the Guildhall. He gives a brilliant and polished account of this challenging work, and is clearly a star of the future. The concert concludes with a very familiar work, Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, which the orchestra plays with great feeling, confirming their high reputation.
Edinburgh is blessed with a depth of classical music, from the concerts given by the RSNO and SCO, to those given by semi-professional but high-quality orchestras, such as the Meadows Chamber Orchestra. Tonight’s concert is certainly a tribute to that musical standard.
‘Events to be eagerly anticipated’
‘A 35-year track record secures the MCO’s place on the capital’s artistic map. It gives its faithful audiences what they want – interesting music performed with zeal, passion and a smile that comes of playing for the love of it.’
‘Despite their track record, reputation and consistency of performance, the musicians of Edinburgh’s Meadows Chamber Orchestra continually provoke surprise. It’s not the steady commissioning and championing of new music, though that is always noteworthy. It is the sheer quality of the playing they produce.’
‘A stunning performance of lyrical intensity’
Rowena Smith, The Herald
‘… the depth of string sound was matched with the energy and precision of the general ensemble. This was a vibrant account of the symphony as a whole; a fitting conclusion to the evening.’
Rowena Smith, The Herald
‘… the orchestra treats each concert as an event: this one pulsated with vitality from start to finish.’
Conrad Wilson, The Herald
‘… the elan and daring of this revolutionary piece were matched by a performance that was exhilarating.’
Andrew Clark, The Scotsman
‘The playing has always exhibited a sense of affection and engagement.’
Mary Miller, The Scotsman
‘… the Meadows is a group that not only can play, but exhibit the highest level of listening to each other while doing so.’
Michael Tumelty, The Herald
‘Peter Evans and the Meadows Chamber Orchestra enjoy a very special position in Edinburgh life.’
George Wilson, The Scotsman
‘Anniversary Concert had audience spellbound.’
‘Nothing was under-expressed. The performance as a whole, not least in the stirring account of the slow movement, showed soloist and orchestra alike swept up by the music.’
Conrad Wilson, The Herald
Here is the complete text of Michael Tumelty’s review in The Herald of the Orchestra’s concert in The Queens’ Hall, Edinburgh on 30 March 2003:
‘Despite their track record, reputation and consistency of performance, the musicians of Edinburgh’s Meadows Chamber Orchestra continually provoke surprise. It’s not the steady commissioning and championing of new music, though that is always noteworthy. It is the sheer quality of playing they produce, exemplified once again on Sunday night throughout their imaginative programme of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, Mahler’s Wayfarer Songs, Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta, and a new work by young Scottish composer, Helen Grime.
Imaginative? Absolutely. If ever there was an argument to advance the notion of Schubert as a proto-expressionist composer (pardon the horrible term), it lay in the juxtaposition of the Meadows Chamber Orchestra’s exquisitely shaped , darkly intense and achingly Romantic version of the Unfinished Symphony with their magically sensitive accompaniment to Louise Mott’s creamy singing of Mahler’s four Wayfarer Songs. Peter Evans’s top-drawer, intimately detailed conducting of both works drew playing of a remarkable polish and sophistication from one of the UK’s best amateur orchestras, inviting comparison between the two very different composers.
Indeed, without much flight of fantasy, it was possible to see Helen Grime’s expertly written and intensely lyrical new Oboe Concerto – dazzlingly played by the young composer herself – as yet a further extension of the expressionist style, with its atmospheric opening conjuring direct evocations of Mahler’s own work. The intriguing aspect of the concerto, whose sections were linked in a single sweep, was the personality of the reflective oboe line, whose essential character remained unchanged, even when animated, through the wide-ranging orchestration of the piece. Expertly crafted, the concerto is an impressive piece of work from a composer with something to say.’