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Sir Colin Davis at Royal Academy of Music

Beethoven: Overture: The Consecration of the House, op.124 (1822);
Symphony No.7 in A, op.92 (1811/1812)

Royal Academy of Music Concert Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis 
Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music, London, 16 October 2009

Free on Fridays is a regular RAM lunchtime concert series which can showcase almost any kind of performing group in the fine Duke’s Hall.

Sir Colin Davis, International Chair of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at the RAM, showed us all exactly how to do Beethoven. With 6 basses and four bassoonists walking on stage I knew this was going to Beethoven writ large, with over 50 years experience of this music being brought to bear.

Sir Colin’s concept of these two works was to make them fun pieces, fun in a childlike, not childish, way, and he succeeded. The Consecration of the House was a raucously enjoyable performance, alternating between loud brass proclamations and wild fugatos, the orchestra in the middle of an almost carnival atmosphere! Great fun indeed.

The 7th Symphony - Wagner called it the apotheosis of the dance because of the strong rhythms. Sir Colin seemed intent on proving the point, conducting with a permanent smile on his face, and taking all the repeats, Sir Colin coaxed playing of the utmost quality, if not total refinement, from his young charges. The introduction to the first movement had a gravity to it, before the allegro burst out, joyous and forthright. The slow movement was a real allegretto, with a forward momentum but never pushed or strained. It was certainly not the solemn tread some conductors believe it to be. A very lively scherzo followed and this heralded a truly barnstorming finale. A wonderful performance of some of Beethoven’s most festive music. Sir Colin and his orchestra really enjoyed themselves – the sheer enjoyment conveyed from the stage to the auditorium – and so did the audience.

Bob Briggs