An evening of lively, even explosive performances that ultimately left mixed impressions – undoubted virtuosity but some work-in-progress interpretations.In the first of Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suites (from his incidental music for Ibsen’s play) Eric Lamb’s flute captivated from the start and thereafter ‘Morning Mood’ unfolded with natural ease, its ebb and flow nicely caught. ‘The Death of Åse’ was suitably poignant, Wayne Marshall coaxing plenty of warm string tone and gathering the short phrase patterns into a sweeping panorama, yet not without depth of feeling. Strings and a perfectly balanced triangle brought scintillation to ‘Anitra’s Dance’, during which melodic sub-clauses were skilfully integrated. An initially tentative ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ built inexorably to a volcanic conclusion.
Stewart Goodyear is principally a pianist, whose career in recent years has begun to include composition. Goodyear describes Callaloo as a “dish from the Caribbean composed of spices from different cultures deliciously blended together.” In its eclectic manner, seemingly an A-Z of Americana, the work showcases his virtuosic pianism supported by some primary-colour orchestral writing peppered with bongos and drum-kit. A calypso-inspired first movement brings a busy concoction of ideas, George Gershwin filtered through Leonard Bernstein and (Englishman) John Barry (he of five Bond scores) – all pleasantly uplifting in its driving rhythms, yet Goodyear’s own musical personality remained elusive. A tsunami of notes follows in ‘Mento’, its intensity relieved by a soothing, autumn-hued ‘Ballad’, violas impressing in the shaping of its carefree melody. Razzmatazz returned in the closing ‘Soca’ – launched by a dazzling cadenza, Prokofiev on speed.
Notwithstanding a suspect opening chord (horns, timpani and double basses not entirely agreeing on their unison D) the first movement of Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony came over with powerful vigour, almost too much at times, but included some very fine horn-playing. Warmth of expression flickered intermittently through the Poco adagio but I didn’t get a sense of the suggested emotional darkness. The third movement was a little heavy-footed, if only Marshall had made the music dance more, and the Finale was more muscle-bound than life affirming – Marshall invigorating the players more through personality than solid technique.