Västerås Sinfonietta/Crawford-Phillips review – a force of nature

St George’s Bristol
The Swedish orchestra may lack polish but their warm personality shone through in this programme of Mendelssohn, Dvořák, Brahms and Mozart

A programme whose theme was the force that is nature was all too apt for a weekend when storms were tyrannical. Under their chief conductor, Simon Crawford-Phillips, Sweden’s Västerås Sinfonietta began their current whirlwind British tour at St George’s. They filled the stage. This is an auditorium whose acoustic best suits recitals, but both the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Aurora Orchestra are regulars there and the mood created is buoyant, especially now that Bristolians are temporarily without Colston Hall.

Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, the original meteorological tone poem, was an obvious opener, with a contemporary one by the Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi to follow. Her Zephyros, an ode to the god of the west wind, with its shimmering whisperings and rustlings and its surface sheen of metallic percussion, reached three climactic points, each dropping away differently and returning – with carefully judged effect – to a seductive breeze.

Cellist Paul Watkins was the soloist in Dvořák’s Silent Woods, his lyrical lines communing with a more benign natural world. Watkins was joined by Lawrence Power for Brahms’s Concerto for Violin and Cello. As previously longtime colleagues in the Nash Ensemble, the ease of mutual understanding was implicit, the virtuosity and intensity fierce. The Hungarian-style finale resonated well with that of Ligeti’s Concert Românesc, which the Västerås musicians had earlier played with Carpathian mountain elan.

Västerås Sinfonietta may lack the ultimate polish of crack ensembles, but engagement is total and their warm personality reasserted itself strongly in the encore led by the principal trumpet, when they happily went walkabout in Mozart’s overture to The Magic Flute.

• At Turner Sims concert hall, Southampton, on 18 February and King’s Place, London, on 19 February.


Rian Evans

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Schiff/Budapest Festival Orchestra/Fischer review – no finer Beethoven playing
Beethoven’s 250th anniversary celebrations began with two perfectly articulated concertos offering exciting new insights

Andrew Clements

01, Dec, 2019 @1:41 PM

Article image
Marriage of Figaro review – Ireland's new opera company opens with unfussy Mozart
Irish National Opera’s first bespoke show needed more emotional depth and complexity, but musical standards were high, with Máire Flavin’s Countess and Aoife Miskelly’s Cherubino particular standouts

Andrew Clements

23, Apr, 2018 @7:48 PM

Article image
The Marriage of Figaro review – zippy Mozart for the #metoo era with gender swap
This revival of David McVicar’s wonderful 2006 production sees an uneven cast and John Eliot Gardiner’s conducting sometimes too overbearing

Martin Kettle

02, Jul, 2019 @2:10 PM

Article image
The Marriage of Figaro review – beguiling cast bring clarity to the confusion
English Touring Opera’s production is beautifully sung and manages to bring out the tenderness within the comedy

Tim Ashley

02, Mar, 2018 @5:19 PM

Article image
What pop music owes to the classical masters
All styles of music feed into each other. Which is why Adele's songs owe everything to Schubert and sampling wouldn't exist without Dvorák

24, Jan, 2013 @6:54 PM

Article image
London Sinfonietta review – the haunting charm of Mauricio Kagel
From vampy robotics to a ‘game’ between cellists, this vivid celebration of the late avant-garde composer embraced the remarkable range of his work

Andrew Clements

04, Feb, 2020 @4:14 PM

Article image
Hallé/Elder review – Paul Lewis weighs his phrases carefully
Mark Elder conducts pianist Paul Lewis and the Hallé Orchestra in a consummate performance of Brahms and Dvořák, writes Alfred Hickling

Alfred Hickling

17, Oct, 2014 @4:39 PM

Article image
London Sinfonietta/Baker review – Tansy Davies' distinctive music lingers
The raw intensity of Davies’ writing was perfectly captured in this concert that also showcased impressive works by Naomi Pinnock and Clara Iannotta

Andrew Clements

11, Nov, 2019 @1:47 PM

Article image
London Sinfonietta/George Benjamin review – austere first world war meditation
Benjamin conducts four new pieces with care and intensity but comes into his own with works of ritual mourning by Stravinsky and Messiaen

Tim Ashley

23, Jul, 2018 @10:30 AM

Article image
CD: Brahms: Viola Sonatas; Trio Op 114


Andrew Clements

16, Mar, 2007 @11:59 PM