Below are some details of concerts the orchestra has given in the last few years.
Sunday 24 November 2019, St Michael and All Angels Church
Beethoven: Overture “Coriolan”
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3
(soloist: Ashwin Tennant)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique)
This concert began with a sombre and dramatic Beethoven overture. The first, stark, motif contrasted with a tender, lyrical one, both of them occurring several times. The orchestra brought this off with great skill. After that, the audience was treated to a flawless performance of Beethoven’s third piano concerto by seventeen-year-old Ashwin Tennant, who combined technical brilliance with sensitivity and feeling. After the interval, the orchestra gave a thrilling performance of Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony, the “pathétique”. One audience member commented, “Another wonderful concert on Sunday afternoon. You … give us a treat of professional quality at amateur prices.”
Sunday 3 March 2019, St Michael and All Angels Church
Butterworth: A Shropshire Lad: Rhapsody for Orchestra
Bruch: Concerto for Clarinet and Viola
(soloists: Paul Harris and Robert Secret)
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5
This concert began with George Butterworth’s haunting evocation of the English countryside. The piece is all the more poignant, given that its composer died in the First World War at the age of thirty-one. Bruch’s lovely concerto was performed with panache and feeling by our soloists, both of whom are well known to music lovers in Oxford. The Shostakovich symphony would be a challenge for any orchestra, but the consensus was that we did justice to its many moods. Plaintive, yearning melodies contrasted with forceful, overpowering military interludes in which the brass was at full volume and the percussion rattled along. The audience revelled in it, with one person telling us, “It brought tears to my eyes.”
Sunday 11 November 2018, St Michael and All Angels Church
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor
(soloist: Dominic Piers Smith)
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2
The soloist in this concert came from among our ranks. Dominic Piers Smith plays the cello in the orchestra, but we recently discovered that he was a prize-winning concert pianist as well. He gave a stunning rendition of the Tchaikovsky piano concerto, conveying all the different moods perfectly, with great sensitivity and versatility. The large audience were absolutely delighted. In the second half, Dominic moved back to his seat in the cello section, joining the orchestra for the Sibelius, of which we gave a creditable rendition. Increased numbers in the violins helped us attain a deeper sound, while the woodwind played very well, as usual. The brass were stunning, especially in the last movement, which brought the symphony to a brilliant climax.
Sunday 18 June 2018, St Michael and All Angels Church
Nielsen: Helios Overture
Grieg: Piano Concerto
(soloist: Ashwin Tennant)
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”)
This concert started off with Nielsen’s Helios Overture, an evocation of the sun rising over the Mediterranean Sea. The orchestra has played this piece before, but we decided to build on our previous efforts, and the general consensus was that we gave a moving performance. The Scandinavian theme continued with Grieg’s wonderful piano concerto, played with verve and aplomb by talented young pianist Ashwin Tennant. After the interval came Dvořák’s “New World” symphony, a perennial favourite. A member of the audience wrote in afterwards to say “I really enjoyed the marvellous music on Sunday afternoon. It was a stunning sound.”
Sunday 25 February 2018, St Michael and All Angels Church
Elgar: Cockaigne Overture
Elgar: Cello Concerto
(soloist: Charlie Woodhouse)
Schumann: Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish)
Despite the fact that young cellist Charlie Woodhouse was playing a concerto for the first time with a full symphony orchestra, he rose to the occasion and played with great verve, emotion and technical prowess. The well-known melodies of Elgar’s concerto, in all their various moods, kept the audience spellbound. The orchestra managed to capture some of the playful spirit of the same composer’s Cockaigne overture, which included some stunning brass tunes. The Schumann symphony was ably conducted by our guest student conductor, Kentaro Machida, who had made his debut with the orchestra in our previous concert.
Sunday 19 November 2017, St Michael and All Angels Church
Mozart: Overture to “The Magic Flute”
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto
(soloist: Leo Appel)
Brahms: Symphony No. 1
It was wonderful to play the Mendelssohn violin concerto with Leo Appel. His reputation as a talented and sensitive young soloist had gone before him, and he lived up to our expectations. The large audience was mesmerised by his virtuosity and delighted by the beauty of his playing. They also enjoyed the Mozart overture, which was conducted by Kentaro Machida, a student at Abingdon School, who appears to have a bright future ahead of him, judging by him impressive musical accomplishments and the confident way he directed the orchestra. The Brahms symphony also went well, despite its technical challenges.
Friday 26 May 2017, Oxford Town Hall
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
with 200 singers from Oxford and Bonn
Soloists: Louise Wayman, Charlotte Tetley, Wagner Moreira and Will Dawes
The orchestra was honoured to have the opportunity to perform Beethoven’s ninth symphony as the high point of the events celebrating the 70th anniversary of Oxford’s twinning link with Bonn. Choirs from two Bonn schools – the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Gymnasium and the Carl-von-Ossietsky-Gymnasium – joined with singers from Oxford to form a special choir assembled for the occasion. Their sound was lovely! The orchestra gave a commendable performance. The last movement was as exciting as everyone had anticipated, and our four wonderful soloists stunned the audience. The Town Hall was full, and we all received a standing ovation. This concert was rounded off with a speech given by the Mayor of the Bonn region, after which audience and performers alike repaired to the bar in the room opposite for a celebratory drink.
Sunday 26 February 2017, St Michael and All Angels Church
Svendsen: Romeo and Juliet Fantasy for Orchestra
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23 (K488)
(soloist: Mami Shikimori)
Dvořák: Symphony No. 8
This concert featured the internationally acclaimed pianist Mami Shikimori, who gave a spellbinding performance of the Mozart piano concerto. The two outer movements were played with aplomb and vivacity, while the adagio was performed with what Daily Information’s expert reviewer described as “the utmost feeling”. The orchestra was honoured to accompany Ms Shikimori, and audience members felt that we had risen to the occasion. The Svendsen and the Dvořák were both ably executed.
Sunday 13 November 2017, St Michael and All Angels Church
Brahms: Tragic Overture
Perrem: Timbres (2014)
Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 2 (soloist: Leon Wu)
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake Ballet suite
This concert was the first in the orchestra’s 50th anniversary season and featured a new work by our founder, Leslie Perrem. The work, Timbres (2014), scored for wind only, was ably performed by our wind section and a presentation was made to Mr Perrem to mark the occasion. The Saint-Saëns piano concerto was played with panache and delicacy by Leon Wu, who performed a Beethoven concerto with us in 2015. We were delighted to play with him again. The audience obviously enjoyed the Tchaikovsky ballet suite as well. During this piece, our ranks were augmented by Leon Wu, who is also an accomplished violinist, and his violin teacher.
Sunday 22 May 2016, St Michael and All Angels Church
Vaughan Williams: Job – A Masque for Dancing
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (“organ”)
With James Anderson-Besant (organ)
This was a truly pioneering concert because Vaughan Williams’ Job, a dance suite, was accompanied by readings from the Book of Job and images by William Blake – the same images which had inspired Vaughan Williams. Peter Brown’s readings gave a vivid sense of the drama of the story, while the audience relished the opportunity to see enlarged versions of Blake’s engravings. The music was not known to many, but people’s comments were very positive, particularly regarding John Hounam’s extended solo in Scene VII, “Elihu’s Dance of Youth and Beauty”. The Saint-Saëns was a real crowd-pleaser, with the organ enriching the orchestral music, firstly in the beautiful slow section and finally in the last section, with its well-known melody.
Sunday 7 February 2016, St Michael and All Angels Church
Beethoven: Overture: “Leonora No. 3”
Brahms: Concerto for Violin and Cello
Schumann: Symphony No. 1
Soloists: Olivier Bonnici (violin) and Jacqueline Johnson (cello)
The orchestra played to a packed house on this occasion. Many of the audience had come to support Jacqueline Johnson, who played superbly despite difficult personal circumstances. She was perfectly complemented by Olivier Bonnici. The music was deeply moving. This was the first time the orchestra had attempted a Schumann symphony, and it came off well. The Beethoven overture provided a stirring start to a memorable concert.
Sunday 8 November 2015, St Michael and All Angels Church
Nielsen: Helios Overture
Sibelius: Karelia Suite
Grieg: Symphonic Dances
This Nordic-themed concert featured more “light” music than usual and elicited some very positive comments from our audience. The patriotic Finlandia and Karelia Suite were stirringly played. The Helios Overture, evoking the sun rising and setting over the Mediterranean, acquainted many of us with Nielsen’s work for the first time and made us want to know more. The Grieg was lively and tuneful.
Sunday 28 June 2015, St Michael and All Angels Church
A Concert of Works by Beethoven
Piano Concerto No. 3
Symphony No. 8
Piano soloist: Leon Wu
This rousing concert, full of drama and beauty, was a delight for orchestra and audience alike. The Egmont overture introduced the themes of heroism and love. The piano concerto, with its delicacy and subtlety, was flawlessly and sensitively performed sixth-former Leon Wu. The symphony was lively and enjoyable.
Sunday 3 May 2015, St Michael and All Angels Church
Krommer: Second Concerto for Two Clarinets
Bruch: Symphony No. 3
Bruckner’s “Overture” deserves to be better known, as does Bruch’s third symphony. The former is tuneful and dramatic, and the latter, reminiscent in parts of the famous violin concerto, contains some wonderful melodies. However, perhaps the highlight of this concert was the double clarinet concerto, played so wonderfully by Paul Harris and Jean Cockburn. The church was nearly full, and the audience appreciated the concert very much.
Sunday 25 January 2015, St Michael and All Angels Church
Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 (soloist: Jacqueline Johnson)
Goodchild: Suite for Cello and Orchestra
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4
This concert, featuring mainly Russian music, was very well received. Borodin’s atmospheric overture, which conjures up an image of a caravan of camels travelling through the desert, was conducted by sixteen-year-old James Anderson-Besant, a budding musician and conductor. Jacqueline Johnson gave a flawless and heartfelt performance of the Shostakovich concerto. The cello suite, written by a contemporary British composer, was a good contrast – lively and stimulating. Of the Tchaikovsky symphony, one audience member said, “It was so exciting! I was on the edge of my seat.”
Saturday 18 October 2014, St Michael and All Angels Church
Karl Jenkins: The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace
To mark the centenary of the start of World War I, the East Oxford Community Choir invited the choir of the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt school in Bonn to give a joint performance of Karl Jenkins’s exciting and powerful choral work. We accompanied this large choir under the baton of Mel Houldershaw. There was not a spare seat in the church, and the audience were not disappointed. Jacqueline Johnson’s cello solo in the Benedictus was eloquent and moving.
Sunday 2 March 2014, St Margaret’s Church
Rossini: Overture to “The Barber of Seville”
Saint-Saëns: Morceau de concert (soloist: Alexander Foster)
Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty Ballet Suite
Haydn: Symphony No. 103 (“Drum Roll”)
This light-hearted concert was full of well-known tunes. Rossini’s lively overture put the audience into a receptive mood, then Alexander Foster gave a flawless performance as soloist in Saint-Saëns’s short showpiece for horn. The Haydn symphony, beginning with a flourish by our timpanist, was stylishly played.
Sunday 24 November 2013, St Margaret’s Church
Weber: Overture to “Der Freischütz”
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 (soloist: Osman Tack)
Dvořák: Symphony No. 7
The concert began with Weber’s exciting overture to Der Freischütz, the story of a marksman who makes a pact with the Devil. Osman Tack then gave a memorable performance of Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto. The Dvořák symphony was commendably played, despite the technical difficulties it presented.
Sunday 30 June 2013, St Michael and All Angels’ Church
Richard Strauss: Oboe Concerto (soloist: Emma Gibbons)
Brahms: Symphony No. 2
Emma Gibbons, a local young musician now studying at the Royal College of Music, attracted a large audience and gave an energetic and accomplished performance of Richard Strauss’s oboe concerto. The orchestra achieved a good degree of “light and shade” in the Brahms.
Sunday 24 February 2013, St Margaret’s Church
Grieg: Piano Concerto (soloist: Joseph Ereaut)
Balakirev: Symphony No. 1 in C Major
Joseph Ereaut, a pupil at Abingdon School, gave a wonderful performance of Grieg’s piano concerto, which the orchestra thoroughly enjoyed accompanying. The Balakirev symphony was a great discovery for audience and orchestra alike.