Neighbourhood Watch: OU Orchestra

Friday night’s concert from the Oxford University Orchestra, under the baton of the energetic young conductor Toby Purser, began with a confident swagger, showing the kind of precisely controlled playing for which both have become renowned.

With star turns from flautist Tom Hancox and Tom Brady’s trombone section, Hindemith’s little-known Symphonic Metamorphosis was played with panache and technical assurance.

The second movement, based on a melody from Weber’s music for the play Turandot, was particularly memorable, with all sections of the orchestra clearly relishing Hindemith’s exotic musical colouring.

The players seemed more at home in Elgar’s spectacular Symphony No. 1, which soon found its feet as the hushed introduction gave way to a warm full orchestral tone.

Purser seemed reluctant to let his brass players off the leash in the sinister and martial scherzo, but when he did, the results were impressive.

Despite some passages which felt a little rushed, Purser held musicians and audience alike in rapt attention at the conclusion of the beautifully played slow movement, where solos from leader Gabi Maas and recent BBC Young Musician woodwind finalist Anke Batty (clarinet) were deftly integrated into first-rate string playing.

Elgar said of this Symphony only that ‘there is no programme beyond a wide experience of human life with a great charity (love) and a massive hope in the future.’

Toby Purser and OUO took an enthusiastic audience through the composer’s complex musical world.

In less than an hour, we were led from introspection to melancholy and grandeur in music-making which few will forget in a hurry.