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.