Orlando Jopling / English Chamber Orchestra
Orlando Jopling does powerful, extraordinary things with this music, generating a structural momentum, emotional charge and climax that can evade even the best of pianists. I haven't been so satisfied with these masterworks for a long time. A revelation. ATES ORGA
OJ leads the English Chamber Orchestra and members of the Schubert ensemble in well-judged, lively performances David Hurwitz, Classics Today
"what a pleasure to hear a performance that actually opens your ears to the music. How a string quintet, the band's engine-room, can produce these sounds is beyond me, and the brass and woodwind never overwhelm the texture. Verdi's mercurial charm is preserved, and the solo instruments shoot it through with delicate transparency. A brilliantly judged mixture of seriousness and play."
"Jopling's 19-strong orchestra took this soufflé along with rare pace, shape, articulation and cogency. Rossini often judders along like a Ferrari in heavy traffic, but this hit the autostrada with the smoothest of gear-changes and an essential joy in its own existence."
"Orlando Jopling conducted the small orchestra with gusto and loving care."
Serena Fenwick, Musical Pointers
From the arresting opening chords to the wonderful and so characteristically Beethovian final coda, this performance was inspired.
Conducting without a score Orlando Jopling set a daringly fast tempo for the first movement, with soaring dramatic intensity. An unforgettable performance.
‘a sense of the unfolding musical drama … Jopling was a commanding presence throughout. A performance of astonishing power … a truly inspired and inspiring evening, rapturously received.’ (Kew Sinfonia) Richmond Times, 200
Imaginative programming and superlative playing resulted in a landmark concert last Saturday. Kew Sinfonia’s orchestral sound now possesses a warmth, balance and homogeneity that is entirely new, with string playing of great tonal beauty and expressive intensity. Much of the credit for this must go to their principal conductor, Orlando Jopling. It has been a privilege to observe the steady development of his conductor’s art.
The performance of Schubert’s ‘Great’ C major symphony, which ended the programme, was one of the finest I have heard. Sustained rhythmic drive and fluid phrasing gave it an irresistible dance energy. Charles McLoughlin
‘cool, fizzy and deliciously intoxicating’ The Flying Fox (Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss), Time Out
‘Orlando Jopling’s conducting was a tour de force of versatility’ Shorts Sunday Telegraph
This is where the real music making is happening. Go, please go.’ Anna Picard, Independent on Sunday, 2001
the highlight of the season .... Musical preparation was of a very sophisticated quality. The series of short operas managed individually to provoke, entertain and move.’ Arts Council of England)
‘This engrossing evening is far more bracing and inventively operatic than anything else on offer in this moribund opera season’ Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 2001
‘Ingenious, touching and funny ... it seemed like one of the shortest evenings I have ever spent in the theatre ... I look forward ardently to my next encounter with Tête à Tête’ Michael Tanner, The Spectator , 1999
‘‘the height of exuberance, outstanding performing in whole-hearted spirit … carried off with panache.’ Vivaldi’s Orlando Plays Mad Robert Thicknesse, The Times, 2000
‘an absolute treat’ Warwick Thompson, Metro, 2000
‘quality music-making’ Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 2000
‘a moving performance conveying calm timelessness ... well rehearsed, tightly rhythmic and full of freshness’
‘brimmed over with effortless musicality ... a flamboyant and passionate performance ... a real sense of boundless energy and vivid colour ... the motive was clear: to enjoy making music ... an uplifting experience.’
The Ham and High
‘a stirring London debut ... climaxes were strong and purposeful, depth of tone impressive, and driving sequences impassioned yet controlled .. a highly expressive account of Strauss' Metamorphosen crowned the evening the fugue radiated a taut, exciting ambience atmospheric ... eloquent ... assured ... polished ... a memorable performance.’
I am aware right from the start that Jopling loves this music. He plays with a lovely light and relaxed tone which is still full and powerful where necessary. There is no stress in the tone which ensures a comfortable listen.
There is plenty of variety in the cello character, with almost whimsical feel to lighter movements. On the other hand there is rhythm and power in Gavottes and Gigues (special mention for the fourth Gigue). Whichever movement he plays, Jopling caresses and shapes the notes. The style he uses generally is more romantic with a lot of give and take in tempo. He articulates faster movements such as Courantes very well.
The Fifth Sarabande intrigues. It retains a starkness and certain dryness from minimal vibrato but, rather than the usual legato smooth flow that many use, the performer separates the notes with just enough space between to visualise dancers stepping backwards and forwards.
Some might find the pace of the third and sixth preludes to be on the slow side but the artist uses the additional time and space well to imbue more musicality I feel.
In conclusion, I strongly recommend this recording. Primarily for its musicality and ability to communicate the emotion of the Suites.
However, there is the added association of money raised for Church projects. Further, it is important not to under value the social enrichment of concerts organised by Church members themselves perhaps enticing those who rarely attend classical events.
I urge any reader to get in touch with the artist and buy a copy, it will reward you well!
What a performance: perfectly tuned; fluent and onwards driving; lithe and light when required; dense and dark elsewhere.
At the start of the Allegro the musicians did not exaggerate the dynamic swells and retreats but still found a ‘rawness’ that some readings lack, and there was a swift gear change after the opening phrase which established a head-strong purposefulness, at times verging on recklessness but never quite giving in to unruly destructiveness.
The players achieved an excellent balance: Fagg and Norris sat left and right, with the viola and cello nestled within – these inner voices created a driving energy, and the movement was athletic, alert and airy. I’ve lost count of how many evenings I’ve spent playing through this quartet with friends, but here I was struck anew by the sheer busyness and diversity of Schubert’s musical material and the ceaseless transferring of the ‘paired’ voices.
The ensemble injected ebbs and flows of pulse to articulate the movement’s structure and create spaciousness, but the momentum never flagged. Before the concluding più mosso there was a cloudy darkness, and from this ominous tension flared an angry intensity which was released in the final bars. The fury burned itself out, and Schubert’s tempo primo marking became a slower diffusion of ferocity and vehemence.
A strong legato stroke and full sound were employed at the start of the slow movement, with just enough momentum to sustain a sense of the ‘con moto’ Schubert appends to his Andantemarking. Though they had not observed the exposition repeat in the preceding Allegro, here all sections were reprised: sometimes what sounded Mendelssohnian first time round took on a more Beethovian hue subsequently. The variations’ changing textures and colours were strikingly defined: a strong clean first fiddle melody supported by warm cello pizzicati and a soft churning bed within transmuted into a doleful cello theme surrounded by lacework patterns – complex, finely woven, but strong.
And, one could always hear that crotchet-quaver-quaver heartbeat pulsing. There was a real surge of intensity at the close and the cello pedal snarled, but the rhythmic unwinding of the viola’s own pedal note eased the anguish. The whispered close never lost its fulsomeness.
The sfzorandi of the Scherzo had lots of bite and grit. The tempo was not too hectic which helped to keep the elastic pulls of the hemiolas taut. And after such acerbity, came the sweetness of Trio: here the tuning and clarity of the high first-fiddle prancing and the melodicism of the lower voices were equally striking.
The litheness of the first movement returned with the concluding Presto. Perfectly synchronised dotted rhythms together with precisely matched slicing acciaccaturas and dynamic contrasts made it seem that the theme might simply launch off into the air. Then came a glorious richness of colour in the con forza episode, all the more vibrant after the barely-there diminuendo which had led into the preceding bar of silence. This was a movement of nimble passagework, sturdy chords and fervent dialogues. In the closing sprinting prestimisso, flames really did rocket the music skywards.
Many an amateur player will recognise such music-making – the players seated in a quasi-circle, musical instruments hanging on the wall, book-lined shelves and alcoves behind. ‘Normal’ musical life, as we have known it. I hope the players enjoyed the customary post-music tipple.