Reuben Tendler reviews the OUPhil Concert on the 24th of November 2021.
Nothing quite beats the enshrouding warmth of a winter concert in the Sheldonian. With a soft red glow and an elbow-to-elbow camaraderie, a night at the theatre—even with its painfully uncomfortable benches—is the musical equivalent of a hot chocolate and a slab of gingerbread. Perfectly suited, then, was the radiance of OU Philharmonia’s players, the indulgent mannerisms of its conductor, Marinu Leccia, and its affirming array of repertoire.
The first half went quickly, not only because of the reduced pauses between pieces—take an extra bow, Marinu, you deserve it!—but also due to some rushing in the winds. By Sibelius’ Symphony No. 3, however, the orchestra began to settle down, with the oboe solo and pizzicato string passages particularly striking in their timbral maturity.
It was only after the interval, though, that the orchestra fully awakened their musical potential. With fantastically solid tuba and timpani playing, Smyth’s Wreckers overture and Britten’s Sea Interludes exuded passionate performances and a collective pride that lasted well into the encore and its ovation. Timings were still slightly off in the untuned percussion, there were tuning issues across the board, and I would have preferred more bass trombone (though the principal trombone’s excellence would be difficult to match), but mostly these can be put down to the unique acoustics of the space and/or nerves.
The visible enjoyment gleaned by each player made the night thoroughly warming, and the audience was sufficiently large and appreciative to reciprocate the sentiment.