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Concert Reviews

A quick recap on the identity of "Our Man In..." alias John Taylor. John has been a regular CPO concert goer for over five years and is now also a "friend" of the orchestra. John hails from Hoo-St-Werburgh near Rochester in Kent where he directs and sings in his own madrigal group. Although a singer himself, he is a stalwart and well-travelled supporter of both his musical daughters, a horn player living in Hampshire and a flautist in Bedfordshire. He is passionate about amateur music making and always enjoys the CPO concerts.

ChristChurch Braintree, March 17th 2007 - Review from by Jill Davison (our leader)
It seemed very strange to be sitting watching this concert as a member of the audience and I came to the concert with a certain amount of mixed feelings and emotions. However, as the evening proceeded I was surprised and delighted to have enjoyed the concert so much and to hear the orchestra from 'afar' as our loyal audience do. It was great to hear the warm tone and assurance with which the CPO played.

Sadly from my seat in the foyer I was unable to hear the first half of the concert in any great detail, but the opening bars of the Schumann Overture had poise and grandeur that communicated the dark brooding nature of the music with great 'presence'. This grandiose style was reinforced by a rich sonorous sound in the strings and gave an imposing start to the concert, only marred by some insecurity of intonation in the wind.

The quieter moments of the Bruch were not audible from the foyer but Kate Kennedy's clear warm sound carried beautifully and the orchestra supported well in the more dramatic moments of this moving piece and intonation settled with the nerves.

From my vantage point in the balcony I was able to fully enjoy the orchestra's commanding performance of Beethoven's 5th symphony. From the opening, this was assured and controlled, using fully the rich warm sound of the orchestra to give tremendous depth and weight to the big 'tutti' passages in particular. The few minor ensemble problems in the strong cello section and in the lower wind in a couple of the quieter moments were more than adequately compensated by the powerful, imposing sound of the full orchestra and I felt very proud of the CPO in this most commendable performance. I would like to particularly congratulate the 2nd violins on their playing which, despite their numbers, helped to maintain a generally good balance within the strings, who produced a warm sound as required.

The finale of the symphony in particular had significant depth and control, the various sections passing themes and phrases around the orchestra with equal deftness and ease, skilfully guided yet again by Anthony's reassuring control and musicality. Light handling of the more transparent passages contrasted effectively with the sonorous weight of the forte passages, leading to a powerful and rousing conclusion to this great work.

I came to this concert with so many mixed emotions and unsure of how I would feel watching this orchestra that I have led for so long perform without me. It seemed particularly poignant, as I have not been able to play my violin since the last CPO concert on 14th October. However, I still found the fingers of my left hand twitching through some of the more familiar violin phrases so there's life in the ol' girl yet! I enjoyed the concert tremendously and was so glad to have been able to share part of the experience with the orchestra, even if not from my usual seat. It was lovely to be able to present the flowers to Kate, especially after all she and Andrew did to support the CPO and get it back on a financially viable footing. It was also great to see everyone again and see how warmly the orchestra had welcomed Ellie as guest leader and obviously worked so well with her; the success of this is a tribute not only to her obvious skill and amiable nature but also to the orchestra.

Thank you all for a great evening of music and 'reunion'. To my surprise on the night the emotion that came closest to overwhelming me was that of pride - I found myself thinking "this orchestra is not bad by half, I think I might join!" Hopefully it will not be too long now before I can start to be re-acquainted with my violin so I hope to see you all next time.

ChristChurch Braintree, October 15th 2005 - Review from Braintree & Witham Times by David H Wood
The evocative playing of the Colne Philharmonic Orchestra transported the audience to the windswept shores of the Hebrides. The wisps of melody that form the opening of Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave Overture were tantalisingly passed around the orchestra, and the cellos and bassoons gracefully handled the main theme. The dramatic orchestral outbursts were well controlled by the conductor Anthony Weeden, and the subdued ending was a delight. After the lively orchestral introduction to Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, the audience was treated to the clear and full-timbred playing of the soloist, Karl Dürr-Sĝrenson. He gave a lucid and intelligent reading of the Allegro, with a resonant depth to his lower register and rich velvety tones in his upper register. He played the Adagio with expressive tenderness, but there were times when the strings of the orchestra failed to match the subtlety of the soloist.

The concluding Rondo was played with energy and vibrancy. The controlled virtuosity of Karl Dürr-Sĝren-son was perfectly balanced between brightness and thoughtfulness, and the orchestral support in this movement was controlled and fluent. The performance of Schubert's Sixth Symphony was compelling from start to finish. The opening movement was finely layered and the jovial lilt of its melody was infectious. The prominent woodwind section had a clarity of tone that found its way to all the sections of the orchestra. The difficult rhythmic contours of the Scherzo were aptly negotiated and the more formal Trio section was full of rustic charm. Such was the control of Anthony Wee-den over his forces that, at times, his conducting style became understated and minimal - this was particularly evident in the playful and airy Allegro. He commandingly brought the symphony to its conclusion with a regal finale. An excellent and enjoyable concert much appreciated by the large audience.

ChristChurch Braintree, July 2nd 2005 - Review from Braintree & Witham Times by David H Wood
There was a buzz of anticipation before the Colne Philharmonic Orchestra's concert at Christ Church on Saturday.

The pianist Irene Tse had flown in from New York to perform Beethoven's 2nd Piano Concerto and, with some well-known Rossini and Mozart on the programme, this promised to be a cracking concert.

Rossini's Overture The Silken Ladder was full of vitality, with some controlled and vibrant playing from the woodwind and a lightness of touch from the strings. The orchestral forces combined to give a deft and glittering finale.

The opening of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 was full of reserved agitation. Anthony Weeden conducted with finesse to bring out the finer points of the score, and the orchestral interchanges were a delight. The slow movement had a singing, aria-like feel, with some subline moments of dark toned intensity. The Minuetto was strong and resonant, with the lighter theme of the trio commandingly passed around the orchestra, and the finale was full of rhythmic drive and energy.

There was a persuasive opening to Beethoven's 2nd Piano Concerto, followed by some elegant and sophisticated playing from Irene Tse. Perhaps because the lid of the Steinway piano remained closed for the first two movements, the cadenza was somewhat introspective and mellow.

Anthony Weeden was in full control of the reflective slow movement, and with the orchestra deliberately held back to allow the relaxed and spacious piano to come through. Irene Tse's full expressivepower came to the fore in the final movement with a lilting and jovial interpretation of the main theme. There was some engaging and witty dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra which culminated in an exuberant finale.

Media attention has, in recent weeks, been focused on the life and works of Beethoven. This was an opportunity for music lovers in Braintree to experience Beethoven-mania in what was probably the first performance of a piano concerto in the town for many years.

With media coverage of this event in New York, the reputation of the Colne Philharmonic Orchestra and our district will have been raised immensely. This was a memorable and significant concert.

ChristChurch Braintree, March 13th 2004 - Review from Braintree & Witham Times by David H Wood
With Anthony Weeden, their regular conductor, called upon to adjudicate at the prestigious Hong Kong Festival, the Colne Philharmonic orchestra had to find a regular conductor at short notice.

Domonic Nunns stepped into the breach and his flamboyant conducting style produced some fine performances from the area's premier orchestra.

Mr Nunns tried everything within his power to coax out the emotional intensity of Barber's Adagio for Strings. Unfortunately, the ochestra was slow to respond to his heartfelt direction and the audience were denied the powerful climax this familiar work deserves. It was in the other two less familiar works that the orchestra excelled. The strings seemed to be more at home in the vibrant introduction of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Oboe, Clarinet, Horn and Bassoon and Orchestra.

Each of the four soloists was given the chance to stamp their identity on the work with some fine virtuosic passages.

At times, the individual voices of the solo instruments were allowed to seamlessly blend in moments of breathtaking beauty - Jill Hunt's oboe was composed and forthright throughout, with Gordon Stowell able to contrast the different registers of the clarinet to good effect. Although often high in the register, Paul Ryder's horn playing was admirable, and the bubbling bassoon of Rosie Moore added its own character to this accomplished quartet.

There was some sustained and melodic playing from the soloists and the orchestra in the graceful adagio, and the final movement andantino provided some rhythmic interchanges between the players.

The work was brought to a rousing conclusion with a dramatic interjection from the small woodwind section within the orchestra.

The opening of Schumann's Symphony No.2 was dark and brooding, and this contrasted well with the lighter bouncy theme that followed. The animated upper strings successfully negotiated the difficult timing of the scherzo; the relentless energy of the movement was unforgiving.

The expressive adagio offered some respite from the drama, and the subdued calmness of the fugal section was a delight. The boisterous allegro was more playful and led to a exhilarating finale. This was a performance that was assured and polished and full of vitality.

Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante is a relatively obscure work, and Schumann is not best remembered for his symphonies. Despite this, both of the longer works in the CPO's programme gained rapturous applause from the large audience. The sheer quality of the orchestral playing won the hearts of the audience and gained many converts to these little known pieces.

ChristChurch Braintree, October 4th 2003 - Review from Braintree & Witham Times by David H Wood
The Colne Philharmonic Orchestra ended their successful 2003 season with four pieces that almost exclusively displayed elements of life and vogour.

In Mozart's Horn Concerto in E Major, soloist Dominic Nunns produced a rounded and resonant sound with his controlled and thoughtful playing. The orchestral accompanient was delightful throughout, with the prominent horn part blending well with the solo instrument. This completed edition of Mozart's unfinished allegro movement was compiled by the soloist and is a significant addition to the horn repertory.

The relentless pulse of Beethoven's Eighth Symphony was evident from the start, with powerful playing from all sections of the orchestra. The conclusion of the first movement was well handled by the conductor Anthony Weeden. Throughout the symphony, the seemingly inconsequential themes were passed around and developed by the orchestra in a good humoured fashion. In the end it was the rhythmic surge that won and we were treated to an overly grandiose finale as one last bit of humour.

In contrast, the opening chords of Mozart's Overture to Don Giovanni offered a sense of foreboding, with the woodwind scales adding to the tension. This eerie beginning was short-lived: the allegro was buoyant and effervescent and was enjoyed by the orchestra and audience alike.

Dominic Nunns returned for the Horn Concerto in E flat major by Richard Strauss, using his mellow ringing tone to good effect in the opening allegro. There was some assured playing from the orchestra and the solo cello blended well with the horn. Dominic's richness of tone was especially evocative in the slow lament of the andante. As the movement developed there was some dynamic and virtuosic playing from the soloist. The declamatory horn and orchestra came together for the finale, during which Dominic's quick-fingered accuracy was a delight.

This was a rousing conclusion to the Colne Philharmonic's 2003 season and I await with interest next year's programme.

ChristChurch Braintree, October 4th 2003 - Review by Our Main In.., John Taylor
The concert on 4th Octover was an unusual one in some respects; it seemed to me at any rate, strange not to begin with the overture and end with the symphony. That is perhaps because after listening to symphony concerts for around sixty years I have become accustomed to that format.

In a novel opening piece the orchestra accompanied Dominic Nunns in his own realisation of a fragment of what might have becoms Mozart's fifth horn concerto. The orchestra has developed in recent years a considerable sensitivity in its accompanient to solo performers and, on this occasion, was quite superb.

Then followed the eighth symphony of Beethoven, such a joyful piece contrasting sharply with the deep and sometimes sombre seventh. It has everything when you think about it, from the exuberant fortissimo tutti at bar 70 for examplt, where the orchestra gives us some beautifully crisp dotted quavers, to the delicate pianissimo of the opening bars of the second movement. Here the wind section distinguished themselves with playing of the highest order. Indeed, I began to think that I had not heard such a fine tone from the horns for some time.

The second half began with the overture to 'Don Giovanni'. This overture moves me least of all the Mozart overtures and, as I read the first paragraph of the programme note.... "The overture is purported to have been written on the eve of the dress rehearsal" I could not help musing that it rather sounded as though that were the case.

The concert concluded with the Richard Strauss Horn Concerto No. 1, a bright and breeze piece which seems to me to convey the youthful enthusiasm of a 17 year old composer. The soloist warmed to his task and the performance brought to an end a delightful evening, directed with his usual flair and style by Anthony Weeden.

ChristChurch Braintree, March 29th 2003 - Review from Braintree & Witham Times by David H Wood
Even before the first note was played, the audience knew they were in for something special. The conductor of the Colne Philharmonic, Anthony Weedon, held the orchestra in silence for several seconds while the stle and bustle of everyday life subsided. Out of this silence came the atmospheric string sound of Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question.

This challenging work operated on three levels. The muted strings represented timelessness; the distant solo trumpet posed the doleful "question" while the woodwind, with their confused babble, attempted to answer it. Although these three layers were directly opposed to each other, the orchestra managed to transcend the ambiguity and produced an overall sound of ethereal beauty.

Composed some 60 years prior to The Unanswered Question, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor was equally demanding to the listener in its day. The unconventional nature of the piece was apparent in the first bars; with no orchestral introduction the solo violin enters immediately.

Soloist Beth Spendlove quickly asserted her authority and proclaimed the passionate and intense theme on which the first movement is based. In Mendelssohn's fixed cadenza, Beth expertly balanced the musicality and virtuosity of her playing and succeeded in adding to the overall development of the movement.

The concerto is innovative in that it plays without a break, and the difficult transition between the movements was well handled by the conductor. The slower second movement contained some controlled playing from the orchestra, allowing the soloist to make the most of her ravishing melody.

The perpetual motion of the finale gave Beth ample opportunity to dazzle and delight the audience, with powerful playing from the orchestra to match.

Haydn's Symphony No. 104 began with a strong rendition of the noble adagio. The playful tune and variations of the second movement were beautifully warm and sensitive, and the orchestra tripped neatly through the boisterous dance-like charms of the minuet. The rustic drone note of the I) horns and cellos underpinned the theme of the finale which developed into a typically fun-filled Haydn frolic.

Once again, the Colne Philharmonic produced a memorable and thought-provoking programme that was greeted with warm applause from the large audience.

Now the orchestra has decided to use Christ Church as its permanent concert base, music lovers of the Braintree district no longer have to travel far to experience top quality music-making.

ChristChurch Braintree, October 5th 2002 - Review from Braintree & Witham Times by David H Wood
Such was the power of Anthony Weeden's conducting of the Colne Philharmonic on Saturday his cufflinks became divorced from his shirt. But his flapping cuffs did not detract from the performance and the audience at Christchurch in Braintree were treated to a varied and thoughtful programme in a venue now adopted by the orchestra as its permanent "concert hall".

In Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances the orchestra revelled in the rustic charm of the lively chromatic dance themes.

In contrast, Elegy, a new work by the Ipswich based composer Gareth Price, was a lamentation for the dead. A rich resonant sound denoted the feelings of loss, while loud rhythmic playing depicted feelings of anger. The piece concluded with a lyrical violin solo played by the leader Jill Davison. The Colne Philharmonic should be praised for adding this notable work to its repertoire.

John Jermy was the soloist in Haydn's Trumpet Concerto in F. The assured control and musicality of his playing was evident from the start, with the audience focused on every nuance of his performance. In the slower central movement, a lyrical singing quality was achieved whilst in the finale a more flamboyant style was offered. This was playing of the highest order matched by the sympathetic accompaniment of the orchestra.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) was an orchestra tour de force expertly handled by Anthony Weeden. We were treated so some slick and purposeful playing, with the development and ultimate destruction of the simple funeral march theme in the slow movement particularly well handled.

It has been a mystery why Braintree does not have an orchestra of its own. Well, it seems the Colne Philharmonic are keen to adopt Braintree as their home.

Although this concert was well attended, the building was by no means full. So, to experience quality orchestral music in a comfortable setting, come along to the Colne Philharmonic's next concert on March 29, 2003. You will not be disappointed!

St. Andrews Church Halstead, March 16th 2002 - Review by Our Man In.., John Taylor
I have often thought that the CPO would do well to include a piece of chamber music occasionally in one or two of its programmes. There are a number of pieces which come to mind, particularly the Mozart Serenade for Thirteen wind instruments and the Mendelssohn and Schubert octets.

With these thoughts in mind, I looked forward in keen anticipation to the concert on 16th March which included on of my favourite pieces, the Dvorak Serenade for wind instruments. I was not disappointed. The opening movement is captivating with its tuneful march-like rhythm and the intricate tracery of melodic lines which pervades the whole work. Perhaps I am biased in favour of this work because at times it is reminiscent of madrigals, for which I have a great fondness.

I sensed that the players were thoroughly enjoying practising their skills, but this did not surprise me, because of my belief that performing in small groups is a specially satisfying experience. The work is beautifully written, allowing each instrument a full part and this was exploited to the full, notably by the oboes and clarinets. This resulted in some fine ensemble work, ably and sensitively directed by Anthony Weeden.

Sibelius' violin concerto is not a work which one hears as frequently as some of the other concerti for the instrument. It brought out a virtuosic performance from Ruth Rogers, and she was ably accompanied by the orchestra. However, the whole work seems pervaded by a somewhat dark atmosphere, perhaps engendered by the way in which it is orchestrated. It gives the impression of being a little bit unbalanced by over-use of the strings and unimaginative use of the wind instruments.

The seventh symphony of Dvorak, which ended the concert, brought some excellent playing from the orchestra, particularly from the 'cellos in the finale.

Holy Trinity Church Halstead, June 30th 2001 - Review by Our Main In.., John Taylor
Pray allow me to preface my piece with the indulgence of a few reminiscences. In the fifty years or so since I first began part singing with 'Hodie Christmas Natus Est' and 'Ding Dong Merrily on High' I have watched a great number of conductors at work. In May 1951 I was privileged, along with several hundred other members of a Festival of Britain Youth Choir, to sing under the baton of Sir Adrian Boult. A great conductor and a fine man, to whom Chaucer's description, 'a verray parfit, gentil knight' could very well have been applied. He conducted with an unusual economy of movement and yet left nobody in any doubt about what he wanted from the choir and orchestra in front of him.

A few years ago I read a report in Le Figaro about a concert by the Paris Conservatoire, conducted by Carlo-Maria Giulini. The critic had entitled his piece 'La baguette du Sourcier' (The Diviner's Rod), and he described how Guilini had discovered and brought out all the hidden depths of the music. I reflected that I had had similar feelings when I heard Wilhelm Furtwangler conduct the Vienna Philharmonic at the Edinburgh Festival in 1953.

This train of thought began as I watched Anthony Weeden in Holy Trinity Church. Not only was his beat transparently clear and precise, but he uses his right hand to beat time and his left to indicate all the other things he wants, like phrasing, dynamics, legato, staccato and so forth. Very few conductors know about this bit of the art. I think it must be very satisfying to sing or play for him. He certainly brought out the best from his players on this occasion.

Nevertheless, a choir or orchestra can only function to the greatest effect if they are with their conductor every step of the way. Consider Mozart's Coronation Mass. On the first page, there are only two words, Kyrie, (repeated three times) and Eleison. On order to get the thing completely together, the chorus must memorise the first page so that they can watch the conductor closely. Orchestral players have no words to remember, but they would always do well to commit to memory the first twelve or so bars of each movement when they perform an symphony. After all, this is a sine qua non of playing traditional jazz.

So it was a disappointment to hear some slight lack of unanimity at the opening of the second movement of Schumann's Rhenish Symphony. The work concluded an interesting and enjoyable programme; it is a symphony which could be heard more often without tiring of it. The Berlioz overture 'Roman Carnival' got the concert away to a fine start. It is a frolic of musical tutti; as Mark Devin remarked in the programme notes, it is brilliant and extrovert.

I find it hard to enthuse about Vaughan Williams' orchestral works, although some of his choral settings are quite unequalled. I did however enthuse about Kerry Schartz's playing of his oboe concerto. This was a memorable exposition of oboe technique and an interpretation of considerable sensitivity.

I notice from the programme that the concert planned for March 2002 is to take place in St Andrew's Church. Thank goodness for that! I am sure that some Greek, French or German philosopher must have remarked that music cannot be fully appreciated in conditions of extreme physical discomfort. I am equally sure that the pews in Holy Trinity are designed to place the maximum strain on human vertebrae. Perhaps a lesser degree of discomfort at St Andrew's will help the audience to concentrate on the music, and so derive greater enjoyment from it.

St Peter's Church Sudbury, March 3rd 2001 - Review by Our Man In.., John Taylor
It is sometimes said the the English are a stoical race. That view would have been strongly supported by anyone present at the concert in Sudbury. There was a full house for a very attractive programme but everyone sat huddled in their overcoats and scarves as the heating system at St. Peter's had failed. Once or twice on my way to various concert venues I have managed to lose my way and I began to think that this had happened again, and that I had ended up in Siberia!

The Orchestra bore up nobly to these atrocious conditions. Any Rossini overture makes a good start to a concert, and the Barber of Seville is no exception. Like it's stable companions - The Silken Ladder, Thieving Magpie and Semiramide, it sparkles along to a string conclusion. It is not difficult to imagine oneself in the opera house, and the sense of excitement as those reverberating chords die away and the curtain rises.

Beth Spendlove's rendition of Vaughan Williams' 'Lark Ascending' at the CPO's Millennium concert was magnificent and so I was particularly looking forward to the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Anyone familiar with Beth's playing will know that she brings a consummate artistry to all her performances and this was certainly no exception as she treated the Sudbury audience to another wonderful display of virtuosity, despite the conditions.

I have read that Mendelssohn never felt that he had finished his Italian Symphony, but be that as it may it makes a fine conclusion to any concert. I cannot help feeling that he really knew how to write for wind instruments. Perhaps this stems from a production I saw some years ago of Shakespeare's 'Midsummer Night's Dream' in which his incidental music was used. Whether the poetry was enhanced by the music or the music by the poetry I shall never know, but the overall effect was quite ethereal.

ChristChurch, Braintree, October 7th 2000 - Review by Our Man In.., John Taylor
I think Christchurch, Braintree is the most comfortable of all the venues used by the CPO for their concerts, and the ambience of the place was enhanced by an interesting programme and some sparking playing most ably conducted by Anthony Weeden.

Perhaps we should hear more of Weber's music; his output was considerably larger than the small range of works we hear performed nowadays, and the music has a certain diaphanous quality about it, which might have something to do with his preoccupation with fairy stories.

The trombone, like the bassoon, suffers from a restricted solo repertoire but Neil George made the point very deftly that there is no good reason for this. Although Albrechtsberger's concerto could not be described as a work of profundity, here was a cameo performance of a cameo work.

The wind section came to the fore in the Mozart Divertimento K131; a novel element in a CPO programme. I wonder if we might at some stage hear a wind quintet, possibly the Haydn "St Anthony" piece or, if something more modern were to be felt appropriate, the Jolivet Serenade or the Hygeti Sechs Bagatellen.

What can one say about Schubert which has not already been said? His music always entrances the listener, whether it be the effervescence of Heidensoslein or the pathos of the Mass in G. So the Unfinished Symphony was a suitable conclusion to a very enjoyable evening. I look forward to hearing the Mendelssohn on 3rd March, which will, I am sure provide an equally enjoyable conclusion.

Garrison Church, Colchester, February 12th 2000 - Review from Essex County Standard by J. Wallace
Classic FM presenter John Brunning was in his home town Colchester on Saturday and invited the Garrison Church audience to relax and enjoy a selection of predominantly pastoral English music.

The Colne Philharmonic strings began the evening's excursion through the English countryside with Britten's Simply Symphony, based on pieces written in his youth. The opening Bouree brought a spirited start with just a few intonation problems which did not detract from our enjoyment half as much as the inexcusable rattling of cash being counted at the back of the church! The difficult Playing Pizzicato was lively and the contrasting mood of the "Sentimental Sarabande" which followed revealed some finely sustained playing.

Brass and woodwind then joined the orchestra for "The Lark Ascending" by Vaughan Williams. This evocative work, inspired by George Meredith's poem, paints an impressionistic picture of the countryside portrayed by various instruments, over which the violin soars to simulate the flight and song of the lark. Beth Spendlove (violin) held us spellbound with her exquisite performance, and in true professional style, remained unperturbed by the intrusive and inopportune striking of the church clock.

The first half concluded with the world premiere of 'Colne Canons" by Rohan Kriwaczek, especially written for this orchestra, in which the composer's intention is to evoke a sense of landscape. The quiet plaintive opening building to a climax of vibrant discords in the first section then lending to a frenetic repetitive theme before dying away to its close, gave the impression of a barren, deserted place and a sense of pain and suffering. The reception was mixed - perhaps there was too much contrast with the tonal, idyllic nature of the preceding works.

Elgar's Enigma Variations, a firm favourite amongst concert-goers, was the perfect choice to end the evening. The orchestra enjoyed every moment of this piece, and this was evident in their finely-balanced playing under Jacques Cohen's baton. The brass section in particular is to be commended. This orchestra is well worth hearing, but only in a more conducive venue, and with a more sensitive front of house team.

Christ Church, Braintree, October 30th 1999 - Review from Braintree & Witham Times by Pat Rudkins
Halstead GP Dr. Paul Bristol must be so proud of his musical baby, the Colne Philharmonic Orchestra. Last Saturday he and the other current members gave a rousing and exciting rendering of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony in Christ Church, Braintree. Conductor Jacques Cohen ensured that the 'cello and bass sections responded well to their tonal exposure and he obtained some lucid oboe playing from Jill Hunt.

Elsewhere on the programme, soloist Patrick Abbot gave a sympathetic performance of Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 2. His phrasing and intonation was most effectively realised in the bottom register. In fact, the woodwinds were particularly reliable throughout the evening. Even the upper strings, which during the Prometheus Overture were in need of more resonance, responded vigorously to the challenge of the glorious Seventh. The familiar Scherzo, Presto, certainly for me fulfilled the expectations that this movement creates, it left me emotionally shaken and stirred.

The wild and tempestuous Halloween weather unfortunately appeared to affect audience attendance at this concert. It was the absentees' loss however, for the orchestra's playing was the liveliest I have heard for some time. Comparisons are sometimes odious I know, but this presentation of a famous Beethoven Symphony contrasted favourably with that performed by the City of London Sinfonia, which I heard recently.

Review by Our Man In.., John Taylor
I haven't been 'your man in'... for a while it seems, due to my own and family musical commitments, so I was especially delighted to be at the Braintree concert in October.

The CPO's performance of Beethoven's Prometheus Overture gave me an opportunity for renewing an acquaintance with a work which I had not heard for some six or seven years. This overture does not seem to fit in concert programmes as frequently as do the later overtures Coriolan, Egmont or the dramatic Lenora No 3. However, Prometheus, which was Beethoven's first venture into writing for the theatre has a certain strength and intensity of its own, exemplified by the allegro molto con brio which follows the slow introduction. It is one of those pieces, (Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream is another) where the opening bars have to be absolutely crisp and together, but on this occasion there was some fluffiness at the edges. Happily, as the piece progressed, the orchestra got into its stride, revealing the vigour which is inherent in the work.

Partick Abbot produced and exquisite tone, perfectly suited to the Weber Clarinet Concerto. Indeed, I was reminded from time to time of the Goodman recording of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he uses a glass mouth piece? Be that as it may, the second movement was most sensitively performed, and together with the virtuosic finale, demonstrated both the qualities of the instrument and the skills of the performer. The orchestra provided a sympathetic accompaniment to the soloist.

Holy Trinity Church Halstead, March 21st 1999 - Review by Ron Naylor
A Victorian church on a cold wet night does not sound like an ideal venue for a performance of Mozart's sunniest opera, Cosi Fan Tutte; a work bubbling with life and good tunes, a light hearted satire spiced with wit and some straight forward clowning.

In the event, the CPO provided a very spirited and lively concert performance in far from ideal conditions. One major advantage of the performance, was the greater clarity and prominence of the singers placed immediately before them, for it is very much a singer's opera. The balance between the vocal line and the orchestra, which is so crucial, proved excellent and yielded particularly fine performances of the finales of Acts 1 and 2.

Cosi, for all its buffoonery, is something of an enlightenment morality tale, enlivened with irony and not a little cynicism. And even if, arguably, it is the most accessible of Mozart's operas, it nevertheless requires a stylish and polished delivery to be combined with a lightness and deftness of touch in execution. This the cast and orchestra worked well together to achieve. Despite appearances, it is not one of the easiest of scores and Jacques Cohen ensured that the CPO coped well with the range of demands made upon it. Mozart's wonderful use of counterplay of brass and woodwind with the vocal line has to appear effortless, no matter what the reality. Overall the ensemble playing was very good and the strings coped well with the demanding score.

The overall balance of the soloists worked well with a polished and sensitive rendering of Ferrando, and an enjoyable, incisive and extremely musical interpretation of Guglielmo. The acoustic suited both and allowed a spirited, lively and powerful interpretation of Dorabella which balanced well a fine and beautifully sung Fiordiligi. Helen Whittington gave and amusingly energetic and penetrating Despina: having been cruelly robbed of all the hilarious stage business. Gareth Jones as Don Alfonso, the worldly cynic successfully demonstrated his theories that all women are the same - very flexible. The audience was delighted to see that Gareth had managed to escape from Canterbury gaol for the evening to make his point. We all hope that he continues with the singing and gets a grip on his gambling problems!

Colchester Garrison Church, November 15th 1998 - Review by Our Man In.., John Taylor
There must be few regular concert goers who do not warm to Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, however many times they might have heard it. Always reminiscent of those heather-clad slopes and Ossian's songs, it never loses its freshness and always gets a concert off to a good start. The Orchestra successfully brought out the mood painting which is inherent in the overture, and although there was a slight tendency on the part of the wind to 'milk' the music here and there, the overall effect was one of great enjoyment.

Haydn, Symphony No. 102

Haydn's Symphony No.102, with its contrasting dynamics and dramatic rests, allows the orchestra to shine, and the players seized the opportunity. This rather tumultuous work must be among the composer's greatest achievements; Jacques Cohen's choices of tempi were most apposite and his unerring direction really brought the score to life.

Dvorak 'Cello Concerto in B Minor

Dvorak's 'cello concerto is an epitome of the composer's style. It was good to have a return visit from Michael Atkinson, who treated us to yet another display of virtuosity, bringing to a close a fine evening of music.

Despite the modest audience the evening was an undoubted success - and musically well worth the effort. However if a similar programme is considered I wonder whether there might be a case for using an English text next time as well as reflecting on the suitability of the venue.

St Peter's Church Sudbury, March 21st 1998 - Review from Essex County Standard by Pat Rudkins
This concert confirmed my personal preferences that, however difficult the score looks, Sibelius is a hypnotic composer and the attempted realisation of Brahms' grand schemes often involve struggle. Under Jacques Cohen's capable baton and following Jill Davison's lead, the orchestra certainly 'go to grips' with the first movement of Pelleas and Melisande, creating the required darkness of mood which, to some extent it was able to contrast later. It was the unacknowledged cor anglais player, however, who "made" this suite. His delicate phrasing and distant dynamics made and excellent reference point for the surrounding instruments.

The performance of Brahm's Serenade No.1 in D produced a rousing second Scherzo.

The magnificent acoustics of St. Peter's though, occasionally revealed some unintentional squeaks and water-laden squawks!.

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