Sir Neville Marriner and the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong
Sha Tin Town Hall Auditorium
Reviewed: November 7
The City Chamber Orchestra opened its new season on Friday under the distinguished baton of Sir Neville Marriner, the British conductor who founded The Academy of St Martin in the Fields in 1958 before going on to build an illustrious discography.
The programme opened with Elgar's Serenade for Strings. The first movement blended nuances and balanced sonorities to allow all the melodic strands to sing, while the central movement's introspective atmosphere was well caught with a wide spread of tonal effects and an assured sense of line.
Both here and in the two pieces that followed, the tightness in ensemble wasn't always immaculate, but Delius' On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring enjoyed some delicious wind colours and thickly layered string textures, while Summer Night on the River was topped out by attractive solos from Artem Konstantinov (cello), Ricardo Zwietisch (viola) and Amelia Chan (concertmaster).
Ending the programme was Haydn's Symphony No 104, his last. This works better seen through the lens of the romantic style of the time than when handled with too much classical nicety. The swagger of the first movement came closest to this viewpoint, with the rest of the performance efficiently dispatched, but delivering few new insights.
The central attraction was Howard Blake's Concerto for Clarinet, in which Andrew Marriner (Marriner's son) was the soloist. The orchestra's taut accompaniment in the first movement provided a solid base for the soloist's rhapsodic passages. The second movement's intense lyricism was beautifully realised, and the finale provided a reliable foil for the clarinet's acrobatics.
Father-son appearances aren't uncommon, but with Marriner senior well into his 91st year, this was an occasion to remember.