Our concerts are usually reviewed in the local press. Here are some recent samples.

Norwich Philharomic review
9 November 2019
Holst: Ballet Suite, The Perfect Fool, Bridge: The Sea, Suite for Orchestra, Finzi: Intimations of Immortality

The Norwich Philharmonic’s first concert of the 2019-20 season featured both orchestra and chorus in a splendid programme of English music.

In the orchestral first half, conductor Matthew Andrews drew vivid and colourful playing from the orchestra in Holst’s ballet suite The Perfect Fool.

Often regarded as Frank Bridge’s finest orchestral work, and one which certainly inspired the young Benjamin Britten when he heard it performed in Norwich in 1924, The Sea is a powerful imaginative work, and Matthew Andrews reading captured the many changing moods in what was a fine performance.

David Dunnett conducted the second half, giving a masterly reading of Gerald Finzi’s Intimations of Immortality, a setting of Wordsworth’s Ode, for tenor, choir and orchestra. It is a work which shows Finzi at his finest; warm lyrical music in the English pastoral tradition. Tenor Adam Tunnicliffe sang with great sensitivity, and, when required, with great power, matching the fervent singing of the choir and the superb orchestral playing.

A splendid start to the new season.

Frank Cliff, EDP 16th November 2019, online version
Republished with permission of the Eastern Evening News(

Norwich Philharomic review: The Orchestra were on top form with many solos all superbly performed
9 February 2019
Wagner: Tannhauser Overture and Venusberg Music, Richard Strauss: Horn Concerto No.1, Mussourgsky: Prelude to Khovanshchina, Rimsky Korsakov: Cappricio Espagnol, Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet

Saturday’s [February 9] Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra concert featured a programme of some of the most ambitious works of the romantic repertoire, begining with Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture and Venusberg Music

No sinecure this and the introduction was somewhat insecure, and though the orchestra recovered well, it was not one of their best performances.

Kate Woolley was the superb soloist in Strauss’ first Horn Concerto; note perfect, superb sound, flawless playing, and the high point of the evening, despite a not too precise orchestral accompaniment.

The playing was more relaxed after the interval with an excellent reading by conductor Matthew Andrews of Rimsky Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol. The orchestra were on top form, with many solos, too numerous to mention individually, all superbly performed.

The orchestra played a sensitive performance of Mussorgsky’s lovely Prelude to Kovanshina before the finale, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, perfectly paced by Andrews, and with superb playing from the band.

Frank Cliff, EEN 11th February 2019, online version
Republished with permission of the Eastern Evening News(

Norwich Philharomic Orchestra review: A shindig like no other
3 November 2018
American Night: Bernstein: Overture Candide, Gershwin: Piano Concerto, Copland: Billy the Kid Suite, Barber: Essay No.1, Gershwin: An American in Paris

Uncle Sam hit Norwich big time on Saturday by way of the Norwich Phil’s ‘American Night’ - a shindig like no other which not only packed them in at St Andrew’s Hall but opened in a blaze of glory with a blistering rendering of Leonard Bernstein’s fiery overture to ‘Candide’.

Under the baton of Matthew Andrews, the Phil (admirably led by Elizabeth Marjoram) excelled in some fine and detailed playing delving deep into Bernstein’s score bringing out every nuance of his seemingly-effortless writing with the strings tight and precise in those tricky and exhilarating opening bars that really set the scene and, indeed, the pace of the night.

George Gershwin’s jazz-inspired F major piano concerto followed with star pianist Martin Roscoe in the hot seat as guest soloist. He delivered a technically-assured performance that would be hard to beat. The second movement was particularly pleasing particularly the passage featuring a lovely Bluesy-sounding muted trumpet solo evoking a desolate and bleak landscape.

There was no let-up whatsoever in the programme which continued with the stakes raised high by Aaron Copland’s ‘Billy the Kid’ suite played with vigour and determination finding the brass blowing in the style of Stan Kenton, the timpani and percussion in full flight and the decorated passages written for woodwind skilfully handled.

Samuel Barber’s Essay No.1 calmed things down a bit before Gershwin roared once more on to the bill with ‘An American in Paris’ featuring Parisian-style taxi horns adding that extra bit of authenticity to the piece. It rounded off a colourful and an unforgettable night witnessing Maestro Andrews driving his charges to an exciting conclusion that left the audience in raptures and most probably humming the tunes all the way home strolling along Avenue des Champs-Élysées - a long way off from Fifth Avenue!

How nice it would have been, though, if we had a Jimmy Cagney-style singer on hand to deliver an encore of that great American number ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’. But you can’t have everything.

Tony Cooper, EEN 9th December 2018, online version
Republished with permission of the Eastern Evening News(

Norwich Philharomic review: Conductor Matthew Andrew’s reading was expressive with many fine orchestral solos
3 November 2018
Armistice Concert: Butterworth: A Shropshire Lad, Vaughan Williams: Symphony No.3 'Pastoral', Vaughan Williams: Lord thou has been our refuge, Elgar: Spirit of England

Saturday’s concert was a tribute to the Armistice Centenary, with both chorus and orchestra performing music with associations to the war.

Conductor, Matthew Andrews drew sensitive playing from the orchestra in Butterworth’s evocative portrait of pre-war rural England, A Shropshire Lad.

Vaughan Williams 3rd symphony The Pastoral, its quiet contemplative music reflecting the composer’s personal experience of the war, is not easy to bring off, yet Andrew’s reading was expressive, with many fine orchestral solos, notably trumpet and horn, and with the off stage soprano cantilena beautifully sung by Catherine May.

Choral music after the interval, with David Dunnett conducting the choir who were on tremendous form in Vaughan Williams Lord, Thou hast been our refuge.

Finally. Elgar’s The Spirit of England, with Catherine May once again the superb soprano soloist. This is Elgar’s last choral work, now seldom heard, yet, in this splendid performance sounding like Elgar at his finest.

Frank Cliff, EDP 4th November 2018, online version
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Christopher Smith enjoys a resounding finale to the Norwich Philharmonic’s 177th season
Brahms: Song of Destiny, Mendelssohn: Song of Praise
17 March 2018

Brahms’ serious-minded Song of Destiny served as an overture to a stirring performance of Mendelssohn’s richly tuneful Song of Praise. With texts from the psalms and adroitly managed echoes of the most famous of Lutheran chorales the work celebrates Gutenberg’s innovations in printing, a key factor in Germany’s religious and intellectual development.

At the start trombones boldly set the mood. Their theme was heard again and again as the great body of skilful singers and talented instrumentalists under conductor David Dunnett tirelessly combined with impressive strength, and, where appropriate, tasteful delicacy.

Christopher Steele proclaimed progress from darkness to enlightenment in ringing tenor tone, and Ruth Holton and Rebecca Newman were delightful in a touching soprano duet that was no worse for being something of a period piece.

Christopher Smith, EDP 19th March 2018
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Norwich Philharmonic, St Andrew’s Hall
3rd February 2018
Kabalevsky: Overture Colas Breugnon, Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2, Suk: Meditation, Martinů: Symphony No.3

With the bustling vigour of Kabalevsky's Colas Breugnon Overture the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra under Matthew Andrews began Saturday's concert in grand style.

With his interpretation of Rachmaninov's Second Concerto the award-winning pianist Alexander Ullman enthralled and delighted the enthusiastic audience in St Andrew's Hall, Norwich. He mingled delicacy and fire, shaping powerful crescendos precisely with poetic artistry.

Next came Czech music with a patriotic dimension. The strings showed their qualities in Josef Suk's 1914 Meditation on St Wenceslas, with the violas particularly impressive.

The whole orchestra, led by Elizabeth Marjoram, was in top form for Martinů's Third Symphony. The work expressed the composer's anguish over his country's suffering in the Second World War.

The brass was powerful, and the percussion was relentless in rhythms that were reinforced by Anne Duarte at the piano. Woodwinds confidently caught the lighter mood in the finale with its glimpses of better times ahead.

Christopher Smith, EDP 5th February 2018
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Norwich Philharmonic, St Andrew’s Hall
9th December 2017
Mahler: Symphony No. 9

A bitter winter's night proved no obstacle to a capacity audience for the NPO's performance of Mahler 9, his last completed work.

It was an ambitious undertaking; a massive score that makes great demands on the players, and interpretively, on the conductor, yet it succeeded. Brilliantly.

The work begins with a long slow movement, the tender opening of which took a while to settle down, but conductor Matthew Andrews soon achieved the right balance between the greate climaxes and the more expansive music.

The two scherzo-like inner movements were brilliantly done, with much excellent wind playing, while the richness of the slow finale, especially the beauty of the string playing at the final close, was superb.

A triumph for Matthew Andrews, and for his splendid orchestra.

Frank Cliff, EDP 13th December 2017
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Norwich Philharmonic Society at St Andrew’s Hall
3 November 2017
Sibelius: Symphony No. 1, Holst: The Cloud Messenger

Norwich Philharmonic Society opened its 177th season on Saturday evening at St Andrew’s Hall with an ambitious programme performed with skill and panache.

Conducted by Matthew Andrews and led by Elizabeth Marjoram, the Orchestra revelled in the stirring contrasts of Sibelius’s First Symphony, making the rhythmic exuberance of its third movement especially thrilling. Rich instrumental colour was also a major feature when the players joined with the chorus of 120 voices in The Cloud Messenger, a work by Gustav Holst that is rarely heard these days. Under David Dunnett and with Deborah Miles-Johnson as the well-focused mezzo soloist, the singers entered readily and with confidence into the changing moods of this attractive setting of an ancient Indian poem that portrays a man’s longing for his wife against the natural and spiritual background of towering mountains and the mighty Ganges.

Christopher Smith, EDP Online 8 November 2017
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus at St Andrew’s Hall
18 March 2017
Haydn: The Seasons

Joseph Haydn’s The Seasons was an ideal choice for a grand finale to the 175th series of St Andrew’s Hall concerts by the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus.

Conducted by David Dunnett, 60 instrumentalists and twice as many singers combined with three fine soloists, Cecilia Osmond, Mark Dobell and Jonathan Brown.

The performance had impressive power in climaxes praising God and imagination in details depicting nature and the life of country-folk at different times of the year.

After atmospheric orchestral introductions to each part of the oratorio came vivid episodes - a glorious sunrise, a dramatic thunderstorm and, for contrast, a vivid hunting scene with horns calling. A cheerful gathering at an inn with villagers quaffing wine and a hymn of thanks concluded a thoroughly enjoyable performance of this historic work.

Christopher Smith, EDP Online 23rd March 2017
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Christopher Smith, EDP Online 23rd March 2017
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Committed performances
4 February 2017
Rachmaninoff: Caprice Bohémien, Aaron Copland: Clarinet Concerto, Shostakovich: Symphony No.12 'The year 1917'

It was an enterprising programme which the Norwich Phil fielded on Saturday, containing two infrequently performed works, yet it still drew a near capacity audience; a mark of the esteem which the orchestra deservedly enjoys.

First, a real rarity; Rachmaninov's Caprice Bohémien, an early work, inspired by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky Korsakov's Caprices, but without their charm, although the finale comes close to it. However, it was interesting to hear and conductor, Matthew Andrews drew excellent playing from the Phil, with some fine instrumental solos, notably Sarah Thompson, clarinet and Ursula Pank, cello.

The high point of the evening was Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto, originally commissioned by the legendary jazz clarinettist, Benny Goodman; on Saturday given a superb performance by the distiguished English clarinettist, Matthew Hunt. Ravishing sound and eloquent phrasing in the opening slow movement, brilliant virtuosity in the cadenza, and splendidly rhythmic playing in the jazzy finale.

With 2017 marking the one hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it was a good idea to perform Shostakovich's 12th symphony "The Year 1917", written in 1961 to commemorate what was then its 44th anniversary. Unashamedly propagandist, it is not one of his best works, and rarely performed, yet Andrews' committed performance captured the music's drama particularly in the spledid, if overblown, finale.

Frank Cliff, EDP 7th February 2017
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra
10 December 2016
Smetana: Šárka, Korngold: Violin Concerto, Dvořák: Symphony No 5

It is surely a mark of the excellent reputation the NPO currently enjoy that there was a near capacity audience, foul weather notwithstanding, for Saturday's concert.

Nor, with the possible exception of the Concerto was the programme an automatic audience puller, containing, as it did, some less familiar repertoire.

Šárka, the third tone poem in Smetana's cycle, Ma Vlast, is seldom performed on its own, yet conductor Matthew Andrews' vibrant account, which captured all the drama and lyricism of this legend of love and revenge, made one wonder why. The orchestra played with such confidence, it might have been part of their normal repertoire, and the wind playing, notably Bev Dubberley's clarinet solo, was excellent.

Though best known in his lifetime for his film scores, there is more to Korngold's violin concerto than richly melodic music. The work seems more impressive with each hearing, especially in a performance as rewarding as that given by the brilliant violinist Zoe Beyers. Excellent accompanying from Andrews, and dedicated orchestral playing.

Finally, it was good to hear a performance of Dvorak's 5th symphony; delightful winds in the opening, the excellently-built climax to the finale a memorable ending to this splendid concert.

Frank Cliff, EDP 12th December 2016
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Performers open 176th season in grand style
5 November 2016
Sibelius: En Saga, Vaughan Williams: Sea Symphony

The Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus opened its 176th season in grand style with a concert with 200 performers in a programme of two powerful compositions from early in the 20th century.

Matthew Andrews conducted Sibelius's En Saga, a richly-scored tone poem with ever changing moods that gave the players ample opportunity to display their skills and acumen.

They rose boldly to the thrill of heroic outbursts. These were all the more striking because they were contrasted with admirably disciplined quieter, more tuneful episodes, especially in the thoughtful conclusion.

With David Dunnett at the helm, the singers embarked whole-heartedly on Vaughan Williams' massive Sea Symphony. The famous opening chord compellingly proclaimed the theme of the work.

Then came a good deal of variety and nuance, as well as a succession of great climaxes.

It is a pity there were not quite enough tenors to match the distinguished contribution by the altos.

The soloists were soprano Susanna Fairbairn and the baritone Quentin Hayes, gallantly standing in at short notice for an indisposed colleague. Like the chorus, they made a fine impression. But too often the lengthy passages of Walt Whitman's idealistic text that Vaughan Williams took as his libretto were drowned in the mighty surges of sound.

Christopher Smith, EDP 7th November 2016
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Choral forces combine for magnificent night
21 May 2016
Mahler Symphony No 8

Norwich Philharmonic Society celebrated its 175th season in truly spectacular style on Saturday with a performance of Mahler's 8th symphony, the Symphony of a Thousand, so called because of its colossal forces; multiple choirs, eight solo singers and a huge orchestra.

Maybe not a thousand performers, but a capacity audience of almost twice that amount in the vast arena of the Norwich Showground: surely a mark of how much the city values its vibrant musical culture and its heritage.

Mahler 8 is the first wholly choral symphony, and the choral forcest involved: Norwich Philharmonic, King's Lynn Festival, Sheringham and Cromer, and Norwich Cathedral choirs, responded to the music's varied demands magnificently, from the initial tremendous outburst of veni creator spiritus to the magical final chorus mysticus.

The excellent team of soloists, sopranos Kirstin Sharpin, Katherin Broderick and Catherine May, mezzos Anne Marie Gibbons and Anna Burford, tenor Peter Wedd, baritone James Harrison and bass Richard Wiegold were equally brilliant, though Mahler's taxing vocal writing produced the occasional harsh sounds from the sopranos, though not from Catherine May's less taxing, but exquisite, Gretchen.

The combined orchestral forces of the Norwich Phil and the Academy of St Thomas, plus numerous extras, played superbly, though the fine detail of some of the quieter episodes was sometimes lost in what proved to be a surprisingly dead acoustic.

Highest praise to conductor Matthew Andrews, whose impeccable conducting and control over these vast forces made this such a memorable performance. there was a tremendous sense of occasion throughout the evening, and the spontaneous standing ovation at the end said it all.

Frank Cliff, EDP 23rd May 2016
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Phil's birthday celebration is full of verve
19 March 2016
175th Birthday Concert

Michael Nicholas' fanfare rang out proudly. Then came Benjamin Britten's marvellously imaginative National Anthem, beginning with hushed mystery and ending in full-throated triumph.

From this fine start the 175th birthday concert of the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus went from strength to strength. The well-chosen programme of classical favourites was played with the confident skill and tremendous verve that we know we can always expect from these dedicated performers.

Conducted by David Dunnett, the singers fervently hymned Fortune from Orff's Carmina Burana and found expressive quieter tones for the nostalgia of the slaves in Verdi's Nabucco. For Borodin's Polovtsian Dances they found a touch of sinuous exoticism before returning to their traditions with a rousing Hallelujah Chorus.

Under Matthew Andrews and led by Dominic Hopkins, the Orchestra, which had supported the singers with vivid accompaniment, gave full expression to the developing drama of Rossini's William Tell Overture and the moving poetry of Dvorak's New World Largo and Elgar's Nimrod.

Played by Anne Duarte, the Phil's newly acquired celeste featured attractively in the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy by Tchaikovsky. His famous 1812 overture complete with the crash of cannon, brought this well-deserved celebration to its fittingly festive conclusion.

Christopher Smith, EDP 21st March 2016
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Spontaneous and exciting
6 February 2016
Vaughan Williams: Norfolk Rhapsody, Beethoven: Piano Concerto no 5, Emperor, Walton: Symphony No.1

Once again, the Norwich Phil was on tremendous form, attracting a capacity audience and proving their concerts have become prime events in the Norwich musical calendar.

Apart from Beethoven's Emperoro concerto, it was a programme of English Music, beginning with Vaughan Williams' Norfolk Rhapsody. Conductor Matthew Andrews' sensitive reading produced a finely-crafted performance, the fine wind playing and Caroline Shepherd's beautiful viola solo capturing the evocative opening to perfection.

Young Estonian pianist Mihkel Poll was the admirable soloist in the Beethoven "Emperor" concerto. In the opening movement his playing sucessfully explored the poetic qualities of the music, though perhaps not quite enough of its grandeur. He gave a rapt and sensitive performance of the slow movement, and the finale, if a little lightweight, had sparkle.

Walton's Symphony No 1 remains one of the great works of the 1930's, and really is music of its time, hence plenty of jazzy syncopated rhythms as well as gloom and melancholy. Matthew Andrews really had the measure of this score, drawing superb ensemble from his players. Exciting, accurate, and with that feeling of spontaneity that gives a performance that extra dimension.

Absolutely splendid.

Frank Cliff, EDP 8th February 2016
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Lifting the spirits on a dark and miserable night
5 December 2015
Dukas: Sorcerer's Apprentice, Canteloube: Songs of the Auvergne, Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte, Rachmaninov:Symphonic Dances

Continuing its triumphant 175th season the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra under Matthew Andrews and with guest leader Ben Lowe, presented a programme designed to showcase its well-honed talents while also raise the spirits of a large audience on a dark windy evening in December.

Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice came first, full of bustling energy that had touches of the eerie under the pattern of repeats that showed the players on top form. They showed their versatility as they responded to the range of nuances in the rich score of Joseph Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne. The soloist was Alison Roddy, a company principal at the English National Opera. She used her rich, warm soprano voice and few restrained gestures to create touchingly intimate impressions of rural life in an idyllic France.

Ravel's Pavane was hushed for the most part and beautifully shaded. This work contrasted well with the stronger emotions and fiercer rhythms in the Symphonic Dances by Rachmaninov.

Christopher Smith, EDP 7th December 2015
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Ideal choice for start of season
7 November 2015
Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius

Hearty congratulations to the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus on the opening of its 175th season.

Elgar's Dream of Gerontius was an ideal choice, suitable both for Rememberance-tide and for the celebratory occasion.

Moulding stirring climaxes, contrasting them in quieter passages with powerful emotions, David Dunnett marshalled great orchestral and choral forces. There were 200 disciplined, committed performers, with a semi-chorus adding variety in tone, and Timothy Patient at the organ.

Tenor Robert Murray gave a moving interpretation of the challenging role of Gerontius. Baritone Adam Green sang with vigour and dramatic emphasis, though rather darker colour might have been more apt for conveying the character of the Priest.

Diana Moore was the Angel. Sympathetic and understanding, she led Gerontius as his soul progressed. Her Alleluias, especially the last, were exhilarating proclamations of triumph.

Christopher Smith, EDP 9th November 2015
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Whole-hearted performances
21 March 2015
Haydn: Te Deum, Bach: Magnificat, Beethoven: Mass in C

Welcoming the participation of singers from the Musical Institute of Koblenz, our German twin-city, the Norwich Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra, under David Dunnett, gave whole-hearted performances of three works to delight the large, appreciative audience.

First came Haydn's Te Deum in C, a fast-moving hymn of praise interpreted in the right spirit of joyful celebration. Bach's Magnificat was both more thoughtful and equally triumphant with voices and instruments, particularly the trumpets, coping admirably with his more elaborate style. Clara Kanter's verse with two flutes (Philip Meader and Vicky McCardel) was outstanding amongst the solos with instrumental accompaniment.

The Mass in C by Beethoven, strong and serious, strenuous and sustained in its demands, presented a great challenge. The response from the chorus was tireless and unanimous in effort and energy, with rousing tone, as the men maintained balance though outnumbered three to one by the ladies.

Adam Green was authoritative, the bass in the well-picked quartet of soloists. Clara Kanter impressed again as her alto voice combined with Cecilia Osmond's clear soprano, whil tenor Nicholas Sharratt reserved his best tone until the end.

With its leader Dominic Hopkins, the orchestra provided fine support throughout every section adding colour to enhance the changing emotions of the sacred texts.

Christopher Smith, EDP 23rd March 2015
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Excellent rapport
7 February 2015
Tchaikovsky: Capriccio Italien, Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No.2, Shostakovich: Symphony No.5

In a taxing all-Russian programme, the Norwich Phil were once again on great form, for which much credit must go to their conductor, Matthew Andrews, who seems to have developed an excellent rapport with his players.

The dynamic fanfares which open Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien were immediately riveting, as was the sonorous sound of the strings in the following melody and the whole work, paced admirably by Andrews, had tremendous vitality.

The Polish violinst Bartosz Woroch was soloist in Prokofiev's Second G minor Concerto. It was a fine performance in which he displayed exemplary technique, as well as capturing both the work's complexity and its lyricism.

A beautiful poetic sound in the opening melody, intense characterful playing throughout the finale, and a warm lyrical sound, as well as a perfectly chosen tempo in the andante, with the orchestra, in the hall's difficult acoustic, providing a well-balanced accompaniment.

To end, a splendid performance of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, again admirably paced by Andrews. Fine string sound in the opening, eloquent playing from the violins and violas in the second subject, the quasi sardonic mood of the allegretto captured perfectly, intense hushed playing in the slow movement, and the long final climax to the last movement well-structured. The applause said it all.

Frank Cliff, EDP 9th February 2015
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Admirably contrasting works
8 December 2014
Smetana: Vltava, Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs, Dvořák: Scherzo Capriccioso, Richard Strauss: Death and Transfiguration

There was a near capacity audience for the Phil's Saturday concert which celebrated Richard Strauss' 150th anniversary with two admirably contrasted works, his early tone poem Death and Transfiguration and the magical late Four Last Songs.
Together with Smetana's Vltava and Dvořák's Scherzo Capriccioso it was a challenging programme to which the orchestra and its conductor Matthew Andrews responded admirably.

Andrews had the measure of Smetana's popular tone poem which describes the course of the river Vltava, producing a highly enjoyable performance with much characterful playing, from the flutes opening depiction of the river's source, the fine lyrical string playing of the work's main melody, through to the splendid climax. Catherine May was the soprano in Strauss' valedictory Four Last Songs - a difficult work to balance, especially in the hall's acoustic, but mostly Andrews got it right. May's voice has a sumptuous sound, particularly in the upper register.
Magnificent in Beim Schlafengehen, most moving in Abendrot, she sang throughout with great sensitivity. There were a few rough edges in Dvořák's Scherzo Capriccioso, but, overall, an exhilharating performance, with some fine horn playing and a lovely lyrical second melody.

Finally, Death and Transfiguration, and here the orchestra were on tremendous form with some fine sonorous brass playing. Andrews paced it well, with perfect control of the great final climax, creating a truly noble sound before the peaceful ending.

Frank Cliff, EDP 8th December 2014
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Norwich Philharmonic
8 November 2014
Debussy: La Mer, George Lloyd: Symphonic Mass

The Norwich Philharmonic's new season opened on Saturday with a programme of two major works, one familiar, one less so.
First the familiar, Debussy's Three Symphonic Sketches, La Mer. Conductor Matthew Andrews paced the work beautifully, and in the difficult acoustic of St. Andrews Hall, the orchestra responded with playing that did justice to the subtleties of this wonderful score, especially in the final movement, with superb sounds from wind and brass.

The music of George Lloyd (1913-1998) may not be widely familiar, yet he was a prolific composer, whose opera Iernin won him wide acclaim in 1935. However, traumatised by his experience of being torpedoed in the Second World War, he only returned to composition late in life, principally as a symphonist, whose works were championed by such distinguished musicians as Sir Charles Groves and Herbert Downes. His Symphonic Mass, performed by the Phil on Saturday under conductor David Dunnett, was written in 1992 and is scored for a large orchestra, choir, but no soloists.

Lloyd's treatment of the mass is unconventional, the choral writing more operatic than liturgical, and backed by brilliantly colourful, if occasionally unremitting, orchestration. The Philharmonic Choir responded brilliantly to the demands required of them with singing that was always thrilling, while the orchestra played superbly, especially the hard worked percussion; the whole superbly controlled by Dunnet.

An adventurous choice and a very rewarding one.

Frank Cliff, EDP 10th November 2014
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Magnificent performances in celebration of an American golden age
22 March 2014
Gershwin: Cuban Overture, Rogers and Hammerstein: songs from the musicals, Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man, Barber: Adagio for Strings, Gershwin: A Tribute to Gershwin

The last concert of the season, and not an empty seat in the house for a programme of American music given by the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir: it largely celebrated the golden age of the American musical in the first half of the 20th century - music whose popularity has stood the test of time, in a taxing programme to which both orchestra and choir responded magnificently.

Principal conductor Matthew Andrews was in charge of the purely orchestral items, beginning with Gershwin's Cuban Overture, inspired by the rhythms of the Cuban bands he heard while on holiday in Havana. Bernstein's Symhonic Dances from West Side Story epitomise his ability to breach the gap between popular and serious music, and Andrews drew accomplished playing from the orchestra with many fine solos. The choir were on splendid form, conductor David Dunnett drawing characterful singing from them in extracts from the great musicals.

A great evening which really made one realise what a golden age that era was.

Frank Cliff, EDP 24th March 2014
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Packed house for a Russian programme
8 February 2014
Liadov: Kikimora, Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet Suite No.2, Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 (Pathétique)

A packed house for the Norwich Phil's Russian programme, which, apart from the symphony, was not an overtly "popular" one, showed the measure of support the Phil generates.

The first work was something of a rarity: Kikimora, a tone poem by Liadov, inspired by a Russian fairty tale: short, beautifully orchestrated, and convincingly performed under conductor Matthew Andrews.

The major work in the first half was Prokofiev's Suite No.2 from his ballet Romeo and Juliet, which he extracted from the score, frustrated by the delays which took place before the complete ballet's first performance.

It is a wonderful, if technically very difficult, score, and Andrews shaped each of the seven scenes with great sensitivity, from the biting intensity of the opening Montagues and Capulets to the final Romeo at Juliet's Tomb: the orchestra responding magnificently, with some especially fine wind playing.

Tchaikovsky's 6th symphony, the Pathetique provided a splendid finale.

Frank Cliff, EDP 10th February 2014
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Britten's War Requiem
11 November 2013

Aiming to speak to us all in his War Requiem, Benjamin Britten combined different traditions. Using plainchant to link ancient and modern, he turned to the traditions of the Latin Mass for both majesty and structure. On that he grafted an orchestral song cycle with texts by Wilfred Owen to ensure that the message was modern, personal and, at times, bitterly satirical.

To perform the work, large forces had to be assembled. David Dunnett conducted the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, the UEA Choir and choristers from Norwich Cathedral while Matthew Andrews directed an Academicy of St Thomas instrumental ensemble.

Its role was to accompany Andrew Mackenzie-Wicks and Roderick Earle, the tenor and baritone soloists, in sensitive settings of Owen's poertry, particularly the heart-rending rewriting of the story of Abraham and Isaac. In a quite different style, the soprano Geraldine McGreey soared with passion in the liturgical sections.

Bells tolled, trumpets sounded and the percussion pounded like artillery in a score with a rich variety of tone that often also spoke of a different sphere. The united power of the chorus made a contrast with the vulnerability of the male soloists that expressed the essence of the pity of war.

Christopher Smith, EDP 11th November 2013
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Performers showed skill and stamina
16 March 2013
Elgar: The Apostles

Alleluias rang out triumphantly at the end of this performance of The Apostles. Edward Elgar's amply proportioned oratorio is a considerable undertaking, and under conductor David Dunnett, the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus showed skill and stamina in response to its challenges.

In a series of scenes from the start of Christ's ministry to Golgotha and the Ascension, the singers were called on to switch mood repeatedly with a background of an instrumental accompaniment of great variety and complexity. Episodes from the Gospels were rapidly evoked and give emotional weight, with the force of the music overcoming the problems of a wordy libretto that seemed at times to shun directness.

In the role of Jesus, Michael Pearce combined dignity with human sympathy. With his manly baritone voice, Robert Rice was powerful and authoritative as Peter, and Michael George knew how to build up the tragic side of Judas. Taking the part of the Evangelist, Martin Hindmarsh had the great merit of clatiry, though his John did not have much character. Una Barry and Vanessa Williamson did not really make the most of their parts as Mary and Mary Magdalene.

Christopher Smith, EDP 18th March 2013
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Concert's muscular finale
8 December 2012
Britten: Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No 2, Dvořák: Symphony No 7

Marking the centenary of Benjamin Britten, this concert also remembered the late Sir Philip Ledger, its patron and a collaborator with the composer, who died last month.

The Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Matthew Andrews and led by Dominic Hopkins opened its concert with the Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes.

Dawn, the first of these short tone poems, created an impression of stark beauty. The mood changed with bells echoing for Sunday Morning and the waves crashing in Storm.

Grasping our attention at the outset with the famous striking phrase, Richard Uttley was the soloist in Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto. He won enthusiastic applause with an interpretation that might have been even more impressive in some of its detail if the orchestra could sometimes have been a shade more considerate.

With bold gestures and powerful rhythms, Dvořák's Seventh Symphony had plenty of drama. The low movement's melancholy gave way to an outburst that in its turn faded away. After the Scherzo's wild dancing, the players still found the reserves of vigour needed for the muscular finale.

Christopher Smith, EDP 10th December 2012
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Orchestral playing of a very high standard
10 November 2012
Constant Lambert: The Rio Grande, Vaughan Williams: Serenade to Music, Holst: The Planets

Norwich Phil's 2012-13 season began in grand style on Saturday with orchestra and choir performing a programme of 20th century English music.

Constant Lambert's The Rio Grande, his setting of a poem by Sacheverell Sitwell, is scored for an orchestra of strings, brass. percussion and solo piano and is his best-known work, though rarely performed. Though the poem describes a Brazilian carnaval, the music's main influence is American jazz. Written in 1927, it is very much music of its time; as Saturday's performance under conductor David Dunnett showed, it remains an exhilarating and exciting piece. Pianist Jonathan Wortley's exemplary playing, tight orchestral discipline and a choir on excellent form provided a spendid opening.

Dunnett also drew sensitive playing from the Phil in Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music, performed in the version for four soloists and choir, although the soloists, soprano Jessica Gillingwater, alto Janet Shell, Daniel Bartlette, tenor and bass Dhilan Gnanadurai were somewhat ill-matched, with the exception of Gillingwater, whose purity of tone and effortless high notes were a delight.

The spectacular finale was Holst's The Planets, with the orchestra's principal conductor Matthew Andrews keeping the massive forces required under tight control, with only the occasional blemish. From the tremendous climax in Mars to the final pianissimo of the off-stage chorus in Neptune, this was orchestral playing of a very high standard.

Frank Cliff, EDP 12th November 2012
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

A triumphant ending to orchestra's season
17 March 2012
Dove: There was a Child, Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky

Saturday evening's concert of two large scale works for chorus and orchestra brought the Norwich Phil's season to a triumphant close.

Jonathan Dove's There was a Child was commissioned in 2009 by the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. A musical commemoration of the death of a friend's 19-year-old son, it is a large scale work, scored for soprano and tenor soloists, choir and children's choir and orchestra. Brilliantly orchestrated and with equally splendid writing for soloists, Dove uses a large number of poems from the 16th to the 20th century as text. This seems somewhat flawed as at a running time of 50 minutes the music becomes somewhat unfocused.
Even so, soprano Nicola-Jane Kemp and tenor Martin Hindmarsh were excellent soloists, conductor David Dunnett drew superb singing from the Norwich Phil Choir, Norwich Cathedral Choristers and Norwich Cathedral Girls Choir, and the NPO's playing was exemplary.

If this was a musical feast, an even greater one followed in the second half: Prokofiev's cantata Alexander Nevsky. David Dunnett conducted a performance which gripped from the magically atmospheric opening, where one could almost smell the cold of a Russian winter through the spectacular orchestral fireworks of the Battle on the Ice, to the great triumphal climax. Superb orchestral playing, equally fine choral singing, and a beautifully sung Lament by mezzo-soprano, Jennifer Westwood.

Frank Cliff, EDP 19th March 2012
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

On good form for ambitious programme
4 February 2012
Weber: Oberon Overture, Brahms: Piano Concerto No 1, Rachmaninov: Symphony No 3

It was an ambitious programme that the Norwich Phil under conductor Matthew Andrews fielded for their Saturday concert and for which generally they were on fine form.

Although the opera has long passed into oblivion, the overture to Weber's Oberon has long been a staple of the orchestral repertoire, and the Phil's performance showed us why.
The slow pianissimo introduction was quite magical, the opening horn solo beautifully played by Andy Thompson, the delicate flute and clarinet figurations and hushed fanfares from trumpets and horns wonderfully atmospheric. Fine playing, too, in the main allegro, though the well-disciplined violins suffered even more than usual from the string- unfriendly acoustic, being pushed well back by the grand piano in place for the concerto.

That concerto was the mighty 1st D Minor Concerto of Brahms, in which the soloist was the young Estonian pianist Mihkel Poll. Poll tackled the formidable technical difficulties with ease. If the more magisterial moments sometimes lacked a little weight, he more than compensated with his sensitivity to the concerto's lyrical music

Conductor Matthew Andrews also merits credit for his choice of the final work: Rachmaninov's 3rd Symphony, his last, and, in my opinioin, his finest
Apart from anything else it's a magnificent showpiece for orchestra, and the Phil were on best form.

Frank Cliff, EDP 6th February 2012
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Orchestral concert paints themes from natural landscape in sound
10 December 2011
Nielsen: Helios Overture, Holst: Egdon Heath, Elgar: Cello Concerto, Sibelius: Symphony No.5

Conducted by Matthew Andrews and led by Ben Payne, the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra presented a programme from the early decades of the 20th century. The overture was Nielsen's Helios, an impression of daybreak that gained confidence until it blazed forth resplendently.

Egdon Heath was another example of landscape painting in music. Holst's musical tribute to Thomas Hardy's Wessex started and ended with slow, deep notes of hushed mystery.
Vivid scoring gave brief life to surging conflicts and fiery passions, but they were placed within the calming context of unchanging nature.

Bartholomew LaFollette was the soloist in Elgar's Cello Concerto.
His approach was quite restrained. Yet the emotions still came across, the expression of profound melancholy that was even denied closure in tragedy.

Inviting heavy pounding in places, Sibelius' powerful Fifth Symphony gave the orchestra ample opportunities for striking switches of mood and instrumental colouring, sometimes with attractive sombre hues. The difficult exposed final chords made an emphatic conclusion.

Christopher Smith, EDP 12th December 2011
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

Season got off to an excellent start
6 November 2011
Dvořák: Noonday Witch, Richard Strauss: Suite from Der Rosenkavalier, Haydn: Harmoniemesse

The first concert of thee Norwich Philharmonic's 2011-12 season could not have been better programmed to show orchestra and choir to better advantage.

Dvořák's late symphonic poems for orchestra contain some of his finest music, yet for some reason are seldom performed. The Noonday Witch, which draws its inspiration from an old folk ballad, provided an excellent overture in all but name.

It's a fine orchestral showpiece, and the Phil sounded on best form, with some notably fine wind playing. There was also much to admire in the sumptuous Suite from Strauss's Rosenkavalier, though conductor Matthew Andrew's reading needed a little more exaggeration of phrasing and rubator to create an authentic Viennese sound.

The Harmoniemess was Haydn's final large scale choral work. It shows his creativity undimmed and David Dunnett conducted a performance which conveyed all the freshness, joy and optimism of this marvellous music.

Soprano Cecilia Osmond, mezzo Clare McCaldin, tenor Simon Wall and bass Brian Bannatyne-Scott were the soloists who, in the absence in this work of large scale arias, blended with each other and the orchestra in what seemed like sublime chamber music. It is the chorus, however, which has the most excting role, and from their first dramatic entry in the kyrie, they never faltered. With excellent intonation and clear diction they performed magnificently, and the memory of those exultant hight B flats at the end of the dona nobis pacem remained long in the memory.

Frank Cliff, EDP 7th November 2011
Republished with permission of the Eastern Daily Press(

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