Young musicians help to lighten the spirit

Completing a tour of several Devon towns, the Isca Ensemble was at Axminster, on Saturday, March 14. This young string orchestra, of about 20 players, is rapidly making a name for itself and this is not surprising with the form they showed on this occasion in the Minster

Completing a tour of several Devon towns, the Isca Ensemble was at Axminster, on Saturday, March 14. This young string orchestra, of about 20 players, is rapidly making a name for itself and this is not surprising with the form they showed on this occasion in the Minster. The Ensemble is an augmentation, with hand-picked players from East and Mid Devon, of the Isca String Quartet, formed about five years ago. Roger Hendy, well known for his 25 years at the helm of the EMG Symphony orchestra, is the conductor.

The highlight of the concert was a performance of Gerald Finzi's Concerto for Clarinet and Strings by Chris Gradwell. With an enviable musical pedigree, he is well-known in both the classical and jazz fields

Finzi's concerto is typical of the English pastoral school of the early and mid twentieth century and has become one of his most popular works. It has several moods, but none more so than the feel of the open air and the English countryside. Chris Gradwell gave a deft performance, with some beautiful tone in the lower chalumeau register and that folk-like tune forming the rondo theme of the last movement bubbled along in a jaunty fashion which lightened the spirit. The orchestra was always there to give encouraging support.

The concert opened with Corelli's Christmas Concerto, so named because of its final Pastorale movement, typical of the seventeenth century, which was meant to evoke the Bethlehem stable scene.


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The work was given a typically modern performance which did tend to hide some of the subtleties of the writing and the concertino group didn't always make its mark independently.

A robust account was given of Dvorak's delightful E major Serenade for Strings. With good rhythmic drive, the pace of each movement never slackened and there was some good strong tone from all sections.

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The remaining work in the programme was Mozart's delightful Divertimento in F major, K138. A remarkable work for a 16-year-old, or, indeed, for a composer of any age, it received an attractive performance, nicely balanced, with appropriately delicate moments.

The concert was given to raise funds for the Friends of the Minster.

John Dalton

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