The latest concert by the Axe Vale Orchestra took place at Seaton Gateway on the afternoon of Sunday 22nd October. 

The concert gave us the opportunity to hear again the Axminster Overture by local composer Gordon Langford.  The AVO played this a couple of years back and it was this orchestra which gave the first performance in 2012.  The orchestra gave it a bouncy opening and must have had a lot of fun with the shifts in harmony and the returns of the opening fanfares. 

It is said that as you age, policemen look younger.  Well, soloists are also looking younger as we heard the second teenage soloist with the AVO this year.  Hetty Christopher is at school studying for her A levels.  Her youthfulness was not an impediment as she made light of the technical difficulties in Hummel’s popular trumpet concerto.  If she looked familiar it may have been because she appeared on our TV screens this summer as she played at the Proms. The concerto blends together impactful trumpet writing with some smooth legato.  Our soloist handled it well especially the many trills and rapid passages which look and sound fiendish. 

As with all concertos, getting the correct balance between soloist and orchestra is key to a fine performance.  The AVO under conductor Walter Brewster did get it right and credit goes to the conductor who has an impressive CV including collaborations with several famous names in the world of music.  He has a particularly clear beat. I hope we will see him in future AVO concerts. 

The concert ended with Felix Mendelssohn’s First Symphony.  Could this really be the work of a 15 year old?  It is very ambitious and seems to be the product of someone with a lifetime’s experience of composing for an orchestra.  In recent years the AVO has performed the later Italian Symphony and Scottish Symphony;  they seem to be making a speciality of this wonderful composer’s symphonies.   This First Symphony starts fiercely and gave me the impression of being an overture to a drama.  The rather dense orchestral textures were well handled and it was clear that the timpanist had vivid contributions to make.  The following Andante presented flowing melodies and poignant harmonies all nicely done.  The Minuet and its very contrasting Trio section made me wonder again at how a 15 year old could create this (what was I creating when I was 15?)  The closing Allegro justified the label “with fire” and the fugue section showed off the orchestra’s talents. 

Well done AVO. See you again on 25 February in Colyton.