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Exeter Cathedral, November 2nd 2019

Ligeti - Lontano
Dvorak - Violin Concerto (Soloist: Philippa Mo)
Shostakovich - 5th Symphony

Review submitted by Angela Blackwell

For an orchestra to re-launch itself with such a challenging piece of repertoire, for both performers and the audience, was a clear statement of the ambition and vision of the newly named Devon Philharmonic Orchestra. Ligeti’s ‘Lontano’ is not a piece to be listened to as background music; it grabs your attention and makes you listen attentively to every detail. Here we were welcomed to a shifting sound-world where the conductor, Leo Geyer, carefully balanced sonorities and beautifully controlled dynamics that built up tension and surprised you. The orchestra were rewarded after such a finely nuanced performance by an audience that did not want to clap and break the mood; a true sign of success!

Dvorak’s Violin Concerto, with its strong opening tutti, immediately grabbed attention with the orchestra now joined by soloist, Philippa Mo. Any concerns about the soloist being heard over such a large ensemble swiftly disappeared with great projection from the soloist and sensitive accompanying from the orchestra. Dancing folk-rhythms and lyrical lines were in abundance along with technical prowess and a rich, warm orchestral sound.

To end the concert with Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony was a master stroke. From moments of menace to joy, exciting full orchestral passages to delicate solo playing (well done to all the soloists), grandeur to introspection, exciting fanfares to jaunty melodies the orchestra delivered it all. It was a magnificent performance that had the audience enthralled and the third movement, at the heart of the piece, was played with real love and care, strongly communicating with the audience.

The orchestra now has a name that reflects the breadth of talent of the players and it has set its standard extremely high. How exciting!

Angela Blackwell


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