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Lichfield Festival review: Irish Chamber Orchestra @ Lichfield Cathedral

Almost unbelievably it was a hot night in Lichfield after a sweltering day and suddenly the cathedral seemed the city’s cool and welcoming heart for this magnificent orchestra and its audience.

Irish Chamber Orchestra’s first offering, the stately overture to Mozart’s Idomeneo showcased their cohesive talent for playing with beautiful clarity and wonderful depth and variation of tone.

The Irish Chamber Orchestra

The Irish Chamber Orchestra

But the Mozart was no preparation for the next piece, a new composition by the orchestra’s distinguished conductor Jorg Widmann, a strangely evocative, almost industrial soundscape that evoked shrill insects and hinted at a sci-fi landscape as extraordinary sounds were conjured from familiar instruments to set us all thinking.

Having proved that he wasn’t just a conductor but an avant-garde composer to boot Mr Widmann next proceeded to display his considerable talent for woodwind instruments as the soloist for Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto.

I think we were all ready for what Lucia Pillson of Tilling would have called “un piccolo divino Mozartino” and we got it in full, rippling, fluid notes falling like glistening drops of blessed rain, at times stately and sombre, at others spry and light. The hymn-like second movement seemed to possess infinite pathos, while in the third the weighty tones of the orchestra effortlessly supported the joyous, playful, clarinet. I honestly don’t think this piece could be played any better.

After the interval the conductor performed another of his own compositions, an interesting new piece for solo clarinet which proved a fresh and intriguing contrast to Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.

Now the full power of ICO was brought to one of the greatest works in the orchestral repertoire with its mixture of pathos and passion, leaving a very satisfied summery audience.

A perfect Festival evening, some things delightfully classic, some intriguingly new.

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.

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