REVIEW: Musical Society’s strings strike the right chord

Buxton Musical Society, St John’s Church, Sunday March 18

RATHER an unusual programme was presented by the Musical Society in their latest concert.

The main work was Britten’s St Nicholas with a welcome return to Buxton of Andrew Mackenzie Wicks, marvellous in the title role, and the Society’s Choir augmented by the Chamber Choir of Kings School, Macclesfield, following the Society’s policy of involving young musicians in their concerts.

Britten had written this work for the resources available to him at the time (1948) which happened to be a tenor (his friend Peter Pears), a choir, some boys, a string quartet, a piano, an organ and percussion.

That this ensemble can provide such a dramatic account of the life of the Saint says much about the versatility of Britten’s compositional style.

It was a spirited performance with the audience fully involved by being invited to sing three verses of the Old Hundredth and of William Cowper’s hymn God Moves in a Mysterious Way which Britten had incorporated into his composition.

Having assembled these musicians it was a good idea to include works which required similar forces.

Thus we had Brahms’ Love Songs performed by the choir and solo tenor accompanied by piano and two pieces for strings, Grieg’s Holberg Suite and the Serenade for Strings by Elgar.

Each of the pieces in the Brahms’ cycle of 18 songs is directed to an aspect of love, a subject of endless fascination and complexity.

So it was really helpful to have the full text of the songs in the programme so that we could follow the idea on which each piece in the cycle was focused and appreciate how Brahms related the music to each idea.

In past reviews I have often mentioned how good the Buxton Orchestra’s strings sound.

In this concert they were at their best. Both the Holberg Suite and The Serenade for Strings are very well, known and thus risk being dismissed as old boilers.

But on this occasion they were completely successful particularly the Elgar which entranced us with some of his most sublime melodies.

Even Elgar himself was said to be quite pleased with it!

Peter Low