Symphony Orchestra Triumphs Under New Musical Director

There was plenty of anticipation ahead of Henley Symphony Orchestra’s first concert under its new Music Director and Conductor Leon Bosch on Saturday at The Hexagon.  Not only did the orchestra set itself a particularly ambitious programme for the event, but there was also only a relatively short amount of time for the orchestra and conductor, who only took over in January, to get to know each other.

However, the evening ended with all concerned wreathed in smiles and rewarded with well-deserved cheers from the audience.  Leon Bosch has evidently quickly established a strong bond with the orchestra who responded enthusiastically to his clear and concise musical leadership.  Henley’s keen amateur musicians are benefitting from his many years as a professional orchestral player, in particular the string sections which performed with increasing confidence, producing a range of dynamics and expressiveness as an ensemble.

The evening opened with Smetana’s much-loved Vltava from his symphonic poem Ma Vlast (My Fatherland). Vltava paints a musical portrait of the river of the same name, with the orchestral instruments required to capture the spirit of the stream as it emerges and develops into a grand river, as well as the bankside landscape and nearby castles, not to mention mythological characters associated with it.  Henley’s flautists did their new conductor proud with their silvery tones, while the French horns and brass made the most of the majestic moments of the piece.

Martin Roscoe, who previously performed with HSO in 2016, returned to play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor), providing a thoroughly magisterial interpretation of this famous work, which the orchestra accompanied with sensitivity.  The second half of the concert presented the Hexagon audience with a stirring and triumphant performance of Rachmaninov’s 2nd symphony.  Born 150 years ago, Rachmaninov composed this symphony in 1909, and it has remained popular since its debut – and with good reason.  Packed full of melodies as well as providing a great showcase for the virtuosic talents of the orchestral musicians, it was clear that the members of Henley Symphony Orchestra had risen to the challenge with relish.

Wind and brass players as well as orchestra leader David Burton played their demanding solo lines with aplomb, and throughout all the string players performed strongly, allowing Leon Bosch to create a coherent and entertaining interpretation of this mighty work.  The audience can look forward to this new partnership between orchestra and conductor on their next outing in June.

Review by Elestr Lee



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