Concert Review- Surrey Advertiser on Surrey Mozart Players “Three Symphonies” (Mozart 35, Sibelius 7, Brahms 1

From the Surrey Advertiser, published on 8 July, 2011


Success of Bold Programme

Three Symphonies, Electric Theatre, Guildford, June 18, 2011

THIS was a bold programme.

On Saturday, June 18 at Guildford’s Electric Theatre, the Surrey Mozart Players presented us with three symphonies, a daunting prospect, avoiding the customary contrasts of introductory overture or guest soloist.

Indeed, two of these symphonies-Sibelius 7 and Brahms 1– are among the most serious in the entire repertoire.

In a sense, contrast was provided by the opening symphony, Mozart’s Symphony no. 35 (Haffner), which began life as a serenade.

Conductor Kenneth woods and his well-disciplined orchestra captured its special qualities with economy and panache.

The outer movements, in particular, impressed with telling detail and precision.

For later composers, the Beethoven legacy proved a heavy burden.

Brahms and Sibelius were both very conscious of this, and set themselves the higest ideals as a creative challenge.

Sibelius 7 is in one continuous movement, the zenith of an approach to form that had pre-occupied him earlier in his Symphony no. 5. Tension and momentum were impressively sustained throughout, though the conductor’s energetic gestures to the strings brought with it some grunts (as at Wimbledon). Orchestral balance was commendable, given the chamber-orchestra size of the string sections.

There can surely never be another such individual, indeed experimental First Symphony as that of Brahms.

Especially convincing in this performance were the first  and last movements, appropriately weighty and generally more secure in rhythmic impact. The overall effect of the slow movement was… expansive- there was some beautiful solo playing, including from the leader Sally Dewey.

By Sebastian Forbes


Funny- this is the second time in my life I’ve been taken to task for grunting in a concert, and the other time was also in a Sibelius symphony, No. 2 in that case. I’m extremely unbothered by vocalizations of musicians as long as it is not an affectation. In both Sibelius incidents, I wasn’t aware my usual huffing and puffing had tipped over into grunting, so I can’t say I feel too much guilt. Still, if any listeners were put off, I do apologize.  The real question is why Sibelius makes me grunt- fodder for a future blog post, perhaps?

FYI- I actually corrected the original text from “bought with it some grunts” to “brought with it some grunts.” I know all too well that attempts at snotty sarcasm bing (sic) with them a heightened risky (sic) of typos.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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1 comment on “Concert Review- Surrey Advertiser on Surrey Mozart Players “Three Symphonies” (Mozart 35, Sibelius 7, Brahms 1”

  1. Kenneth Woods

    From the blog Intermezzo, it turns out I am not the only one grunting these days:

    “A number of comments on my post about Thursday’s Tosca mention the distraction of Tony Pappano’s extremely audible huffing, puffing and grunting. For those who have yet to experience the phenomenon first-hand, imagine a lady tennis champion being taken from the rear whilst simultaneously executing a series of tricky backhands. On this occasion it could, as one reader mentioned, be heard from the back of the stalls. He’s not the only conductor to join in of course – Sir Colin Davis’s iPod-style humalongs are well known. But he is possibly the noisiest.

    It cannot be denied though that the louder the racket, the better the orchestra seem to play. The less vigorously accompanied performances have generally not been the best ones. Whether it encourages the band, or just helps him focus in on the conducting, is hard to say.”

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