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Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra review: A shindig like no other

PUBLISHED: 13:52 09 December 2018 | UPDATED: 13:52 09 December 2018

File photo of the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra at St Andrews Hall. Photo: Bill Smith

File photo of the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra at St Andrews Hall. Photo: Bill Smith

Bill Smith © 2015

Uncle Sam hit Norwich big time on Saturday by way of the Norwich Phil's 'American Night' - a shindig like no other which not only packed them in at St Andrew's Hall but opened in a blaze of glory with a blistering rendering of Leonard Bernstein's fiery overture to 'Candide'.

Under the baton of Matthew Andrews, the Phil (admirably led by Elizabeth Marjoram) excelled in some fine and detailed playing delving deep into Bernstein’s score bringing out every nuance of his seemingly-effortless writing with the strings tight and precise in those tricky and exhilarating opening bars that really set the scene and, indeed, the pace of the night.

George Gershwin’s jazz-inspired F major piano concerto followed with star pianist Martin Roscoe in the hot seat as guest soloist. He delivered a technically-assured performance that would be hard to beat. The second movement was particularly pleasing particularly the passage featuring a lovely Bluesy-sounding muted trumpet solo evoking a desolate and bleak landscape.

There was no let-up whatsoever in the programme which continued with the stakes raised high by Aaron Copland’s ‘Billy the Kid’ suite played with vigour and determination finding the brass blowing in the style of Stan Kenton, the timpani and percussion in full flight and the decorated passages written for woodwind skilfully handled.

Samuel Barber’s Essay No.1 calmed things down a bit before Gershwin roared once more on to the bill with ‘An American in Paris’ featuring Parisian-style taxi horns adding that extra bit of authenticity to the piece. It rounded off a colourful and an unforgettable night witnessing Maestro Andrews driving his charges to an exciting conclusion that left the audience in raptures and most probably humming the tunes all the way home strolling along Avenue des Champs-Élysées - a long way off from Fifth Avenue!

How nice it would have been, though, if we had a Jimmy Cagney-style singer on hand to deliver an encore of that great American number ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’. But you can’t have everything.

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