Review: Excitement and vigour from dramatically improving orchestra

Leamington Sinfionia's conductor Thomas Payne.
Leamington Sinfionia's conductor Thomas Payne.

Leamington Sinfonia, the Kingsley School, Leamington, March 15.

It just gets better and better! With new conductor, Thomas Payne seeing the results of his efforts, the continued support of leader Edward Boothroyd, new players, innovation and an energised number of long serving players, Leamington Sinfonia’s confidence grows and their performances improve dramatically.

Payne is one of a number of exciting young conductors influencing local orchestras; Richard Laing with Leamington Chamber Orchestra, another. They each bring a sense of excitement and vigour to their work. Payne is worth watching, if only, to marvel at what he can do with his compact frame to encourage the improved output from players.

That improved output was clearly demonstrated in their powerful delivery of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5 with notable contributions from Tim Rushby (trumpet), Emma Williams (oboe), David Ferrer (clarinet) and Anton Rosenfeld (horn). Ferrer’s controlled introduction set the standard the horns had to follow; the bassoons, too, maintained that standard in the second movement with the oboes excelling in the third movement valse.

Before the interval a full house at the Kingsley School were treated to an inspired performance by Liang Shan of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor. Shan arrived in Britain from the China Conservatory, progressed through the Birmingham Conservatory and now studies at the Royal College of Music. Schumann produced some of the best endings to his movements – this concerto being a good example; and his starts can be pretty striking too as Shan showed us in the exhilarating opening movement. Very soon the sheer joy of watching Shan’s hands float across the keyboard became mesmerising; Payne supported him enthusiastically, the winds as well.

The innovation came from the first public performance of Ami Oprenova’s The Thracian Horseman. Ami is a product of Sofia’s National Music School and now studies at Birmingham’s Conservatoire with Leamington’s Howard Skempton. Making the best use of a massive percussion section, Ami’s piece builds on a series of themes to yet another attempt to lay claim to the best ending of the night.

Clive Peacock