On occasions it is good to remember those who are no longer with us who have helped keep the tradition of classical music alive. The high quality of this concert was indeed a fitting tribute.
The spirit that Melanie once brought to the orchestra was well captured by the orchestra and soloist in works by Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and the lesser-spotted Reinhold Glière.
The Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde is melodic and colourful, but conductor Stephen Bell also teased all Wagner’s passion out of the orchestra’s excellent expression without it wallowing into sentimentality. Some poignant oboe decorated the piece and beautifully
controlled gentle bass, while away from the many reflective moments strings whipped up drama.
The moving Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss make far-reaching demands on the soprano soloist they were specially written for, and Camilla Roberts was well up to the task presented by the high tessituras of the score, in particular the long breaths needed for the cantilena. Smooth transitions and confidently held extended notes added to the soaring beauty of all four pieces, and brought out the yearning, especially in 'When Falling Asleep'. Beautifully mellow horns echoed the haunting nature of the score.
Sometimes Roberts soared as high and as confidently as Brighton’s seagulls as if on a thermal wave and at other times she mined the emotional depths of the Strauss score with gravitas.
The orchestra maintained the essential delicate balance between not being too brisk and not letting the music wallow. For her part Roberts did not allow the highly-strung pieces to become over-emotional,and did not over-egg the vibrato in a performance of both controlled power and sensitivity that beautifully conveyed Strauss’s contemplative and sometimes sad mood without showboating. Strauss would have been delighted to have seen his songs sung and played in a way so faithful to his intentions.
It was good to hear the musicians give such a charming and endearing account of the little-known first symphony by the Russian composer Reinhold Glière,with all four delightful movements threaded through with grace.
At times as light as a souffle, with delicate woodwind, gentle echoes from horns and softly insistent strings, the orchestra occasionally let loose with some bolder brass and more strident timpani.
Overall the musicians reflected well the pleasing melodies and well-constructed harmonies of the then 25-year-old Gliere, reflecting his youthful optimism and exuberance in their enthusiastic playing.
The orchestra and Melanie’s family also paid tribute to the Macmillan Nurses who they said cared so brilliantly for her at the end of her life. A JustGiving page for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of Melanie Hornsby can be found here.