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REVIEW: Oxford University Sinfonietta – MT19

Fenella Gent reviews OUSinf’s concert of Schumann, Tippett and Ravel, which took place at the University Church on Friday 22nd November

Amidst the lines of twilit pews and contouring stone arches, the Oxford University Sinfonietta (OUSinf) arranged themselves, ready to begin a momentous and sensational performance. Conducted by the poised and magnificent skill of Joseph Beesley, the concert began with Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. Instantaneously the pastel harmonies of impressionism filled the church and the dazzled audience were led down a vista of nostalgia and brooding melancholy. The outstanding principle oboe part, played by Ewan Millar, danced with exquisite elegance and sombre yearning beneath the rich warmth of the strings and woodwind. Treated to four wonderful movements, the audience were submerged in the colourful palette of Ravel.

Yet, this innocent evocation was soon obliterated by the performance of Michael Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli. With absolutely exceptional control and virtuoso, soloists Charlie Lovell-Jones, Katalin Oldland and Max Cheung brought a level of unparalleled intensity, drama and musicality to the piece. The audience sat in awe, captivated in the storm of emotions and were left speechless by such a theatrical display.

After the interval, the audience bustled with excitement to their seats, awaiting the brilliance of the concert’s concluding masterpiece, Robert Schumann’s Symphony No.4 in D minor, Op. 120. The performance that followed was a musical triumph. As each movement seamlessly glided into the next, the marvellous skill and dexterity of the performers evoked a sense of majesty and vigour. Capturing, in every phrase, the juxtaposing sensitivity and dramatic turbulence of the music, the performance provided a truly sensational end to an incredible concert.

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