Last night saw the Abbey Church in Shrewsbury echo to the sounds of great music. For those of you who know Elgar as the composer of “Land of Hope and Glory” we saw the other Elgar. This was the peaceful, thoughtful, contemplative Elgar; the lover of the countryside. In a beautiful performance of Elgar’s Sea Pictures Sarah Fryer was sensitively accompanied by John Moore and the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra.
What a contrast in the second half. The six symphonies of Danish composer Carl Nielsen deserve to be much better known, and last night saw a strong performance of number 3 The Espansiva. Nielsen had a profoundly positive outlook on life and was great believer in the life force. Somehow, in his symphonies the life force always wins out, though often this follows a bit of a struggle with anger and conflict. This symphony is well described by its title. It has plenty of rushing around, a comical waltz that evokes a fairground band and even some sensitive solos for woodwind. But the expansive theme powers through it all with the trombones finally coming at half speed as if the powerful force has spread its arms to embrace the world.
This was my last concert as principal flute with the Shrewsbury Orchestra which I joined forty-six years ago. In that time we have played under six conductors and got to know many of the great classics. It has been a wonderful experience and last night was a good one to finish on.