The 2009 Dublin Handel Festival came to a close last night with a performance by Anthony Marwood and the Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO) in the National Concert Hall. The programme was not entirely works by Handel but was a mixture of Baroque, Romantic and Contemporary works. They opened with Handel’s Concerto Grosso in A Op. 6 No. 11 and the smiling members of the orchestra seemed to thoroughly enjoy the work, in particular the last Allegro section. Marwood conducted the performance with his entire body, his foot occasionally stamping the beginning of a passage.
I hadn’t had a chance to look at the programme and was surprised and delighted by the appearance of Irish composer John Kinsella among the baroque and romantic composers. There was no smiling among the orchestral members for Kinsella’s Prelude and Toccata as the low rapid phrases forced all performers into intense concentration. The fast paced work was sufficiently controlled by Marwood and the clarity on the lower notes, even with mutes, promoted the dark atmosphere.
After the concentrated effort of the Kinsella the orchestra seemed less invested in Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No 12 in G Minor. The work was professionally executed but unremarkable among the intensity of the other works.
Marwood was been Artistic Director of the ICO for three years and has a full A4 page of experience and awards but Schumann’s Violin Concerto in A Op. 129 was a serious challenge even for someone of his experience. He accepted the challenge head on and the taxing solo passages seemed to exhaust the man. Supported by the orchestra he executed two outstanding climbing passages which gave me butterflies in my tummy and reminded me why Schumann is hailed as one of the great romantics. Marwood looked delighted with himself and well he might as the control he demonstrated in the Sehr lebhaft section before easing the orchestra into the delicacy of the final phrases.
Following the intensity of the Schumann the relief was palpable as the always-elegant Rachel Factor rejoined the orchestra on harpsichord for a selection from the Water Music Suite in F major. There was an initial struggle between strings and wind with tempo but that quickly settled bringing the evening and the 2009 Dublin Handel Festival to a smiling close.