REVIEW: Richmond Chamber Orchestra at the Georgian Theatre Royal

Morvern Scrivener.

A full house greeted the 18 string players of the newly-formed Richmond Chamber Orchestra as they crowded on to the stage of the Georgian Theatre on Sunday afternoon; would they fit? Only just with a harpsichord and a grand piano as well!

The orchestra is meant to be pocket-sized and flexible and the players, drawn from professionals and amateurs in the area, soon showed their strengths, especially in the second half of the concert; Grieg’s Holberg Suite really came alive, and the musicians were clearly enjoying themselves. Ending the programme with a suite by Janacek was a bold move too – an early work full of quirkiness and Czech flavours.

An aim of the orchestra is to provide opportunities for younger musicians to experience working with a live ensemble and the second work on the programme did just that in Mozart’s delightful and fresh K414 A major piano concerto. The soloist, Morvern Scrivener is currently studying at Cambridge University but began her musical studies in Richmond. Despite the piano necessarily being upstage of most of the orchestra, she projected her part clearly and colourfully and handled the technical challenges of the always difficult Mozart with youthful enthusiasm.

Perhaps the lack of space (and a few nerves) contributed to a few blemishes of togetherness in the opening Corelli – seeing their director, violinist Philippa Mo from all parts of the stage must have been a challenge – but once the players had settled in, things went much more smoothly. Philippa is already establishing herself internationally and is championing all sorts of unusual and contemporary music.

Let’s hope that the RCO can find many opportunities to delight us in the future – perhaps in a less crowded environment. As one audience member said, ‘it was rather like having an orchestra playing to you in your front room!’

John Grundy was conductor of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and Sydney Philharmonia, and Director of St Mary’s Music School in Scotland.