Category Archives: Reviews

Romantic Ideals Reviews

“Romantic Ideals”
Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra – leader Alex Laing
Conductor: Philip Scriven
Oboe Soloist: George Caird.
Venue:  Lichfield Cathedral.  Saturday 19th February 2011.
Reviewed by Christopher Arnold


“This ambitious group offered a welcome departure from the more well-known classics popularised by frequent radio broadcasts.  The proximity to Valentine’s Day presented the opportunity for a programme of romantic music in the majestic setting of Lichfield Cathedral.

A Pavane may well be a stately processional dance from medaeval times, but in Faure’s hands it becomes a sensuous, velvety experience verging on the erotic.  The stylish strings, led by recently recovered Alex Laing found a perfect balance to Alison Chadwick’s silvery flute.

What followed was a rarity and a treat.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author, Douglas Adams suggested that in no language was found the expression “as beautiful as an airport”. I would like to offer another unlikely phrase: “as famous as an oboist”.  Richard Stauss’ oboe concerto has been described as “fiendishly difficult” by one pundit and “delicious” by another.  It was composed towards the end of Strauss’ life, just after the second world war following a friendship with an American soldier who had been a professional oboist.  George Caird’s stunning technique with a thistledown touch actually made the piece sound easy. It begins with a virtuoso almost cadenza like display of agility requiring huge concentration.  Caird, clearly enjoying himself, despatched this with ease, leading into the majestic andante and triumphant finale.  All eyes (and ears) were on the soloist, but credit must also be given to the orchestra, particularly the Cor Anglais sound from talented Laura Ashton.  I, for one was left with the thought that if oboists were as popular as tenors or pianists Caird would be much better known.

Pelleas e Mellisande is associated with Debussy in popular circles, so DECO’s choice of Sibelius’s suite was a welcome change.  The opening majestic chords have been used to introduce Patrick Moore’s Sky at Night TV programme for more than 50 years.  To hear the full work, describing the story of love, marriage, infidelity and death is informative.  The steady direction of Philip Scriven communicated this dark story most effectively, holding the attention of the audience to the last.  The silence at the end attested to the power of the performance.

Live orchestral music, performed by top class players has an energy and excitement impossible to access from recorded performances.  The shared experiences of evenings like this live with us for life, transcending the relentless exposure to recorded music.

What next for this growing group?  Perhaps pre-concert talks and the odd encore? “”