REVIEW: JUBILEE SPRING CONCERT - 31 MARCH 2012 - St Paul’s Church, Northgate, Chichester

CHICHESTER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA leader Anna Ruijterman

BUTTERWORTH BANKS OF GREEN WILLOW

WARLOCK CAPRIOL SUITE

DELIUS THE WALK TO THE PARADISE GARDEN (A VILLAGE ROMEO & JULIET)

conductor Mark Hartt-Palmer

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS SYMPHONY NO. 5

conductor Michael Walsh

British music is not half as well known in the non-English speaking world as it should be. Elgar has many admirers in France and, particularly, Germany, but there was near-disbelief when the USSR Symphony Orchestra recorded his Second Symphony. Vaughan Williams fares even worse: when Andre Previn conducted his wonderful Tallis Fantasia with the Vienna Philharmonic, deeply impressed players approached him with the question “Did Vaughan Williams write anything else?”

Perhaps English music has still not recovered from its Victorian-age reputation, when our only really good composer was comic opera writer Arthur Sullivan.

If, however, there were any citizens of our EU neighbours in Saturday’s audience, they might well have decided to start exploring our twentieth century music.

The CSO chose three nicely varied miniatures with which to open the concert. Who would not warm to Butterworth’s folk-inspired idyll, warmly pictorial with an ardent central passage? Good solo work from woodwinds and the orchestra’s leader. Peter Warlock’s bit of pastiche owes a great deal to a sixteenth century French collection (and the Pavane, for wind and percussion, sounds much like one of Dowland’s works), but it is very entertaining: the Sword-Dance ends with a dissonance that suggests dodgy footwork and a need for bandaging.

There could be no greater contrast than the piece that followed. Although Delius’ opera A Village Romeo and Juliet is performed only rarely, its interlude The Walk to the Paradise Garden is one of his most popular short pieces. Unusually for Delius, this miniature is as emotional as it is pastoral, and perfectly captures the feelings of teenage lovers who, against an arcadian background, have concluded a suicide pact. The orchestra soon settled into an affecting performance, and Mark Hartt-Palmer ensured that this walk was perfectly paced.

Vaughan Williams’ beautiful Fifth is the most spiritual of his symphonies, filled as it is with ideas from his opera A Pilgrim’s Progress, and featuring a treatment of part of Sine Nomine (For All the Saints). The opening tempo seemed slow for a moderato, but the effect was quite hypnotic and the choice was justified by the splendid impact of the central climax. The Scherzo, which surely has something to do with the devil, is certainly devilishly difficult to play, and one had to admire the orchestra’s determination to do it justice. The Romanza - perhaps the composer’s loveliest slow movement - was beautifully done, with excellent playing from cor anglais and flute. Conductor Michael Walsh is to be congratulated on holding the Finale together better than the conductor on my London Philharmonic CD! - and the performance of the epilogue suggested, quite appropriately, a world beyond time.

Phil Jenkins