We know Kenneth Roberts better as a conductor than a composer but he has a large number of works to his name.
It was good then to start this concert by the Sussex Concert Orchestra at Christ Church with a suite of dances drawn from his own score for the ballet Anne Garland. The story comes from Hardy’s The Trumpet Major and we heard dances for a ball, dances for a wedding and a final, reflective Epilogue. The style echoes the late romantic world of Malcolm Arnold (and even at times Malcolm Williamson!) and the dances effectively reflect the period and the events. The Epilogue by contrast avoids melancholy while highlighting the gentle pain of potential loss. Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole is best known for its final movement and rarely heard complete. Violinist Amber Emson was fierce in the opening Allegro Non Troppo and elegant in the flowing Intermezzo. Some momentary lapses in intonation from the orchestra did not distract.
Christ Church has a difficult acoustic, the long reverberation tending to muddy the sound. Dvorak’s New World Symphony was at its best in the quieter moments, with some strong solo playing, though the brass often managed to cut through to fine effect. The central section of the third movement, closer to Smetana than the rest of the work, flowed with an exhilarating sense of enthusiasm, and the balance was at its best in the final movement. By Brian Hick.