The evening began impressively with Brahms’s Tragic Overture, conducted by third year music student, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin. The orchestra played responsively to the energetic conducting (well, who wouldn’t when the conductor is standing on the podium impressively conducting 10 minutes of music from memory!) as Goodwin’s charismatic direction showed evident passion and understanding of the music. The lyrical passages were played with sensitivity whilst the dramatic sections were executed with a good balance of precision and drive.
Following on from this was the highly awaited Liszt Piano Concerto No.1, performed by soloist Ruta Laukaityte and conducted by Jonathan Tilbrook. Final year music student, Ruta Luakaiyte astounded the audience from start to finish with poise and brilliant musicianship. Despite the rather battered piano – the deprived Steinway’s broken leg had only been fixed in recent weeks (and tuned only hours before the concert!) – Luakaiyte made the piano sing during the quiet passages, impressively bringing out the melodic likes with a delicate and sensitive touch on the keys. Unfortunately, there were some balance issues during some of the louder passages as the acoustics of Great Hall obscured the brass sound occasionally overwhelming the piano, unable to compete with the full orchestra. Orchestral soloists, particularly clarinettist Hannah Ochner and cellist Louise Webber, played beautifully within the piano sound and the interplay between piano and orchestra was communicated with musical fluency throughout.
The second half had a lot to live up to, but the light-hearted pairing of Mussorgsky’s ‘Night on a Bare Mountain’ and, every bassoon player’s dream, ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ by Dukas, ensured a balanced and accessible programme, carefully picked by conductors and orchestral managers in order to appeal to a wider audience. Conducted by Rosi Callery, vice-president of the music society, the hammering rhythms of the Mussorgsky were performed with devilish intensity, further emphasising the moment of reflection at the end of the piece. Bringing the concert to a close was the well-known ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’, conducted by post-graduate student Chris Hoggarth. The orchestra was well controlled throughout while bassoon quartet, Peter Cleaves, Emma Cunliffe, Amy Hargreaves and Jonathan Price, effectively conveyed the cheeky and playful atmosphere Dukas surely intended.