Norfolk and Norwich Festival review: Britten Sinfonia's Surround Sound

Britten Sinfonia's Surround Sound: Norwich Playlist, part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2021. 

Britten Sinfonia's Surround Sound: Norwich Playlist, part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2021. - Credit: James Goffin

This year’s Norfolk and Norwich Festival classical music strand got off to a bang – literally – with a smorgasbord of treats.

Copland’s Fanfare For The Common Man kicked off a 60 minute concert packed to Norwich Cathedral’s dreamy-high rafters with 18 short pieces, performed by the Britten Sinfonia and guests Abel Selaocoe, Bernhard Schimpelsberger and the Cathedral’s own girls’ choir.

The eclectic selection spanned the ages, from the 16th century to the present day, and although there were a few palpable transitions the selection hung together well.

With the audience mostly lounging on floormats in socially distanced bubbles, and the musicians promenading to different stages throughout the Cathedral, this was definitely a Covid-era concert.

The unique setting brought out the drama in some works, notably the theatrical jerks of Shostakovich’s Octet Scherzo amplified by the standing, distanced musicians, and Selaocoe joining the Sinfonia for Hell I but sitting alone in the nave under Maz Jackson and Joy Whiddet’s swirling Angel mobile.

Oboist Peter Facer seemed to relish his splendid isolation for Britten’s Pan.

Inevitably the brevity of the pieces left you wanting for more, which I suspect was rather the point – hence the Spotify link on the programme to explore more.

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The pandemic has made lots of things more difficult, but it has also forced some creative responses; this was definitely one that worked.

James Goffin

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