The best of string playing in the best of locations: Arco Strings brought the highest quality of music to St Mary and St Giles.
There was more than a touch of joy in Arco Strings’ concert on Saturday night 1 October at SMSG.
From the opening moments of a Trumpet and Violin concerto by Vivaldi we knew the sound world was going to be glorious. And so it was throughout.
Locally-born Jack Wilson’s trumpet was clean and crisp alongside the generous playing of Celia Waterhouse and the reduced Arco Strings in the Vivaldi (RV548). Vivaldi’s music is there to be understood and enjoyed instantly on first hearing: our delight was that here were performers who could deliver that directness so effortlessly.
Later, Jack showed off his dazzling firework ability which was a complete match for the flamboyance of the piano soloist Arturo Cuellar. They played at high energy Cuellar’s own jazz- and Colombian-inspired Fantasia for trumpet, strings and piano.
The concert’s conductor David Knight told us – and we heard it to be true – that Cuellar’s infectious music draws on his South American origins as much as on the jazz rhythms of Stravinsky and Gershwin. And oh boy, wasn’t it high powered and fun?
Time after time, David Knight encouraged his wonderful group of players to use the acoustic of the church to bring out the essence of the music. Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis may have been written for the great spaces of Gloucester Cathedral, but the placing of the three parts of the orchestra here in Stony Stratford was quite magical. We were drawn closer and closer into the world of English Renaissance song, and of folk music, and of Vaughan Williams’ vision of our beautiful landscape. Time stood still.
What delighted above all was the pleasure Arco Strings took in their own playing. It was infectious to watch an orchestra of professionals grinning with delight at the rhythmic drive in Cuellar’s music. And it was deeply moving to hear the exquisite, radiant solo violin and cello playing in the shimmering slow movement of Tippet’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra.
Tippett’s Concerto was the concert climax. With its Englishness written through like a piece of Brighton Rock, Arco Strings showed us with total commitment what a great composer Tippett was, and how outstanding this concerto is. It’s music that is accessible, but which conceals complex and deep thought. David Knight’s understanding of these intricate interwoven elements gave us a wonderfully crafted emotional and highly intelligent musical experience which will live in the memory.
Our treat was the inspiration of the Music for All team to host yet another magnificent concert in this lovely building. Their ambition is to provide opportunities for musicians of all ages and abilities to be at their best. Arco Strings’ joyous playing let us hear the very best players performing at their very best.
Words by David Wolfson, photos by Anna Page
The programme (in order of play):
- Vivaldi - Concerto for trumpet, violin and strings in B flat major
- Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis
- Cuellar - Fantasia for trumpet, strings and piano
- Tippett - Concerto for double string orchestra
Note: Arco Strings was formed in 2003 to bring together orchestral professionals, string teachers and amateurs to perform the best of the string orchestra repertoire. It meets once a year for intensive rehearsals prior to a performance. It enjoys a long standing association with Colombian composer Arturo Cuellar.
Comment received after the event:
"Just to say how much we enjoyed the concert last night. The programme was fascinatingly varied and the performances were uniformly excellent. A concert worthy of the South Bank or Wigmore Hall. We were particularly impressed by the young trumpeter, who drew our attention every time he put the instrument to his lips. His tone, phrasing and, of course, accuracy were fabulous. Let's hear more from him in MK, please."
More photos can be viewed at Arco Strings at Stony Stratford 2016