Classical music reviews by Mike Wheeler

Picture by Nigel Apperley

The Sixteen, Derby Cathedral

The Sixteen and conductor Harry Christophers took JS Bach’s so-called Lutheran’Mass in G, BWV 236, on tour in February. A delightful work got a performance to match, from solidity in the Kyrie’s closely-woven polyphony, to dancing energy in the Gloria. Before it, the orchestra played the Sinfonia to Vivaldi’s opera Dorilla in Tempe, RV 709, by turns effervescent, stately and bouncy.

Part 2 opened with Handel, the overture and final chorus from his oratorio Esther, both vigorously done, though the chorus does go on a bit.

More Vivaldi to end with – the well-known Gloria in D, RV 589 For the final two numbers, the choir was joined by Derby Cathedral’s choristers, enhancing an already bright, ringing choral tone, and bringing the evening to an appropriately festive close.

Sinfonia Viva, Derby Theatre

Music and maths have been knocking around together since – oh, I don’t know when. So it was a natural progression for Sinfonia Viva’s annual schools residency to move from last year’s engineering-themed project to this year’s Mathematical Advantage.

Regular workshop leader James Redwood was joined in steering it by composer Raph Clarkson and singing leader Rachel Wilkes from Derbyshire Music Education Hub. Fourteen players from Sinfonia Viva were on stage, with Frank Zielhorst (pictured above), who takes up the post of the orchestra’s Principal Conductor in mid-March. But as always, the stars of the show were the students – from Firs and Beckett Primary Schools, Littleover Community School and Derby College.

An entertaining survey of some basic mathematical principles in songs and instrumental pieces took in concepts of symmetry, multiplication and fractions, with a taste of the mysterious worlds of the Fibonacci sequence and prime numbers. It all added up (sorry) to another heart-warming showcase for what kids can do, given half a chance and the right encouragement.

Derby Chamber Music: Alke String Quartet, Multi-Faith Centre, Derby University

The Alke String Quartet began by capturing all the expressive range of Haydn’s Quartet in G, Op 64 No 4, from amiability in the first movement, an earthy quality in the minuet, underlying edginess in the third movement, and springy energy and wit in the finale.

There was similar attention to contrasts in Britten’s Quartet No 1, not least the first movement’s alternating poised, rarefied slow opening and its edgy quick music. There was a nicely spiky playing in the scherzo, in the third movement a sense of serious issues being worked through, and a boisterous account of the finale.

In Schubert’s Quartet in G, D887, arguably his most radical piece of chamber music, the implications of its fragmentary opening were not lost on the players. Though the first violin and viola’s repeated protests against the second movement’s downward drift could been more strident, the flickering scherzo was suitably tense. The finale was full of energy, with the passing shadows making their point without undue emphasis. Occasional brief lapses in technical finesse did not detract from three deeply involving performances.