Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment featuring Marin Alsop and Nicola Benedetti,The Anvil, Basingstoke


Why do people go to concerts? Because of the music being played? The performers? The occasion itself? Do people just want to be entertained or perhaps also to have their musical understanding broadened?

I confess I’m not a Beethoven fan – “muzak for the self-styled intelligentsia” is how I view most of his work. So it was the stellar cast of performers that attracted me to Thursday’s concert by The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, with Marin Alsop conducting and Nicola Benedetti the solo violinist. And who knows, if I were to keep an open mind, they might even change my anti-Ludwig views.

Marin Alsop (the first lady to conduct The Last Night of The Proms) led the orchestra in two works. First up was Beethoven’s 4th. Symphony, a piece often viewed as something of a laidback interlude between his more rumbustious 3rd and 5th symphonies. The OAE played with delicacy and precision, but what struck me most was how many of them never took their eyes off Alsop, whose influence on the performance was hugely evident as she gently guided the subtle changes of mood and emphasis, a real tour de force from the podium: a leader and an inspiration, not just a human metronome.

After the interval, Nicola Benedetti performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. A dominant presence on stage, she plays with understated, intricate and expressive musicality, careful to integrate her charming contribution with that of the orchestra, bouncing the music’s main theme back and forth with the tympani. It was a piece of solo violin of the highest order, a Savile Row suit born of catgut; but an Anderson & Sheppard suit, rather than an Ozwald Boateng.

A concert with something for everyone, then, be they lovers of Beethoven or fans of the performers. And was I converted to old Ludwig? Converted, no; enlightened, yes.

Chris Parkinson-Brown