MUSIC / Notices: New Queen's Hall Orchestra - Barbican Hall, EC1

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The Independent Culture
With the formation of The New Queen's Hall Orchestra, authentic performance practice can be said to have come full circle. Here is a body of players seeking to recreate the sound and conditions characteristic of performances given around the turn of the century and later. Gut strings are employed, for instance, and narrow-bore brass instruments which don't swamp the loud tuttis as their modern counterparts are often in danger of doing.

In this programme of early 20th-century English music the orchestra did indeed bring a freshness of response to many aspects of their playing, and Barry Wordsworth drew a majestic and richly textured performance from his massed strings in Vaughan Williams' Tallis Fantasia. Fine, too, was Elgar's Cello Concerto in which Alexander Baillie lent a most passionate edge to its melancholy shadows and half-lights, characterising with exquisite delicacy in the scherzo and drawing a line of almost unbearable intensity over the closing pages.

The larger forces needed for Holst's The Planets played with less cohesion, however, with a few too many mishaps among the brass and intermittent tuning problems in the expanded wind section. Still, there were many poetic moments and the strings' stylish portamenti in 'Venus' were delightful.