Janus Ensemble Concert: Stravinsky, Arnold, Mozart
St. George's Church, Bloomsbury
9th July 2016
The final concert of Janus Ensemble’s 2015/16 season was given in the gloriously English Baroque milieu of Hawksmoor’s St. George’s Bloomsbury. Grandeur of design was met in clever programming of Arnold, Stravinsky and a crowning Mozart.
Arnold’s Serenade for Small Orchestra Op.26 was a well-judged choice given the orchestra’s size and merits. Leader Venetia Jollands and cello soloist Thomas Marlin brought luscious clarity to the floating theme of the opening Allegretto. The following Andante con Moto introduced a sense of stylish filmic nostalgia, a touch of Hitchcockian suspense perhaps in the intimacy of a question raised, then answered with lush arching string passages. The Allegro Vivace unleashed a rhythmically alert percussive playfulness well suited to the orchestra’s youthful individualism. This was an engagingly complex piece played with panache and a recognisably British self-mocking swagger at the finish.
Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite continued a subliminal conversation on the merits of neglected composers (lesser known 18th century composers, not Pergolesi, as assumed, provided the starting material for Stravinsky’s neoclassic pastiche here). Conductor Davide Levi was skilled in maintaining the ‘elegance over energy’ of this opera buffa romp. At times it was a contested domain; some mellifluous playing by the oboes and assured trumpet mini-solos were occasionally upended by the bassoons’ knowing bluster in the penultimate movement. The whole rang out magnificently in the classical proportions of this beautiful church.
The final piece, Mozart’s ‘Prague’ Symphony No.38 gave full rein to the orchestra’s evident enjoyment in playing together. The symphony’s abundance of invention, its ‘straining at the bit’ in relation to form, makes it well suited for interpretation by such ferociously energised young players. At times a tumultuous work, this ensemble does tumult excellently. Conductor Michael Coleby maintained the equilibrium between subtleties of string conversations, flute and clarinet colourations, the many dissonant motifs, and the rock’n roll pulsations galloping forwards beneath it all.
An ensemble of assured young musicians having a ball, a gorgeous venue, un-sung composers brought lovingly to light – all for a fiver on the door!