Review: Axe Vale Orchestra at Minster Church, Axminster

The Axe Vale Orchestra at the Minster Church, Axminster

The Axe Vale Orchestra at the Minster Church, Axminster - Credit: Contributed

How thrilling it was to be part of a live audience in front of a symphony orchestra.  You could feel this excitement in the Minster Church, Axminster, as the Axe Vale Orchestra (AVO) gave its first live concert since February last year on Sunday, October 10.

Mendelssohn’s overture The Fair Melusine tells the familiar story of a water nymph who falls in love with a mortal, except this nymph inconveniently turns into a mermaid once a week. Well, you can imagine the problems.  The orchestra captured the watery opening beautifully and then went on to portray musically the conflicts which followed.  And did those tunes originate in Scotland?  The young Mendelssohn was on a walking holiday there a couple of years before he wrote this overture. 

A real feast of tunes followed when the orchestra played the first Suite of English Folk Dances written by Ernest Tomlinson.  They caught the dance-like feel of these pieces so well: from the opening violin solo played by the leader Jane Bultz, through an oboe solo with gossamer-like violin harmonics, to the powerful full orchestra of the final dance.  And how familiar they made the tunes sound; do we know them from theme music perhaps? 

La Calinda is the popular dance from Frederick Delius’ opera Koanga.  Despite it being probably the first opera based on Afro-American tunes it is now neglected and wasn’t published until after Delius’ death.  What we heard was a truly delightful rendition of this gentle, tuneful dance, one which always brings a smile to my face.  Well done conductor Arturo Serna and the AVO for making such familiar music sound so fresh. 

It’s easy to be dismissive of Joseph Haydn.  He may have been overshadowed by Beethoven but just listen to his music and then dare to say he wasn’t a genius.  The well-known Clock Symphony is full of remarkable twists and turns, ably negotiated in this performance. This takes a lot of skill to manage so all credit to Arturo and his band.  

You hear so much detail just by being there with a live orchestra.  They set the bar high for the next concert on 27 February at Seaton Gateway. 


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