European Union Chamber Orchestra

Jess Gillam

On this auspicious evening, the last night of the UK’s membership of the European Union, the European Union Chamber Orchestra gave a highly successful concert. Cambridge Corn Exchange was filled with music of the best quality that kept the audience transfixed and, in the words of the conductor, Eva Stegeman, the music the performers played spoke more than words could suffice.

The evening included works by Marcello, Mozart, Glazunov, Tchaikovsky and Haydn. The orchestra worked as one, displaying a unique, intuitive cohesion such that even the slightest turn of phrase or intricate run, no matter how rapid, was perfectly synchronised.

The star of the evening was the saxophone soloist, Jess Gillam, who wowed the audience with her astounding performance. She lived and breathed every note of her performance moving her whole body in sympathy with the expressiveness of the music.

As soon as the first piece, Saxophone Concerto in D minor, by Marcello, began, we knew that the concert would be first-class. The tone was rich and the orchestra and soloists’ sounds were perfectly balanced. The phrasing was exquisitely precise never detracting from the emotional content of the pieces.

A charming, light-hearted ‘Cassation no.1 in G K.63’ by Mozart followed. This was gentle and sometimes cheerful with effects such as lightly plucked strings helping to make this a delightful interlude before Glazunov’s ‘Saxophone Concerto. In this concerto, Jess brought out the emotional depth of this later work particularly well, exploring the wide range of the instrument and making light of the rapid runs. She used her tremendous tonguing and breathing techniques to enhance  the deliciously rich tones of the alto saxophone.

Just before the interval she played a justly deserved encore that sounded very like a luscious arrangement of the song ‘Someone to Watch over Me’. The last long note was a testament to her phenomenal breath control.

After interval we enjoyed Tchaikovsky’s ‘Elegy for Strings’ and Haydn’s Symphony No. 49, ‘La Passione’. The orchestra came into its own with these pieces, the strings’ rich tone giving depth to the melancholic themes in the Tchaikovsky and the whole orchestra proving its phenomenal cohesion especially in the Haydn, even in the very rapid Presto at the end.

The next concert in the Boldfield Orchestral Series will be on Friday 7th February at the Cambridge Corn Exchange featuring the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with soloist Nicola Benedetti and ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ by Berlioz.    

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