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A more intimate Sage Gateshead concert sees Schubert’s Octet on top form

Newcastle Chronicle 

Schubert’s Octet, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Sage Gateshead

The new year’s series of chamber concerts in the more intimate Sage Two got under way with some memorable works from 19th Century composers better known for larger-scale productions.

Rossini carried on where Mozart had left off by composing effortlessly before he had even reached his teens. His six string sonatas were all written when he was only 12 and youthful tendencies were very apparent in the third of them, which opened the concert.

Orchestra leader for the evening, violinist Tristan Gurney, ensured that his fellows in the quartet entered into the spirit with an animated and playful interpretation.

The piece was written at the behest of a double-bass player so, unusually, this instrument – to the delight of the audience and in the very capable hands of Nikita Naumov – had an equal share of the limelight.

Richard Wagner’s wife, Cosima, must have had a surprise when she awoke to the sound of music on her birthday on Christmas Day 1870, when she found her husband conducting 15 musicians on her staircase.

Siegfried’s Idyll was both her Christmas and birthday present and was dedicated to their young son, not the Siegfried of Wagner’s famous Ring cycle.

Completing the first half, this private poem of love, played tenderly and thoughtfully by the strings, now enhanced by woodwind and brass, was a fine contrast to the fun of the Rossini piece.

Franz Schubert had the misfortune to be Beethoven’s contemporary. And on the premise that if you can’t beat him, join him, he modelled his Octet in F on the principles laid down in Beethoven’s Septet, using the same instrumental line up but with the addition of one violin part.

Delicately composed, its six distinct movements give ample opportunity for contrast and enable each musician to put their stamp on the work.

Schubert also gave prominence to the clarinet which for this concert was in the hands of Timothy Orpen, the Sinfonia’s highly-regarded principal.

The themes and rhythms come and go during its symphony-length presentation before all is resolved in a mood of gaiety and good humour.

It was delightful music played in a perfect surrounding, and if this more personal approach is to your liking, Timothy Orpen headlines his own concert in Sage Two, with just piano and viola, on February 10.

photo: New member of the Northern Sinfonia, musician Timothy Orpen, clarinet – courtesy of RNS

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Special mention should go to principal clarinet Timothy Orpen

Opera Wire, Benjamin Poore

Deliciously played

The Arts Desk, Boyd Tonkin

Lovely solo playing

The Herald, Keith Bruce

Stunning solo

The Times, Richard Morrison

Colourful, propulsive and quick as lightning

The Times, Geoff Brown

Big turnout of young and old for Royal Northern Sinfonia's new season opener at Sage

Newcastle Chronicle, David Whetstone

'A blazing talent' he certainly is …

Stratford Herald, Peter Buckroyd

[..the Sacconi Quartet] were joined by Timothy Orpen for a lovely work premiered in 2014, Ian Venables’s Canzonetta for Clarinet and String Quartet Op 44. This beautifully shaped piece, characterised throughout by typically English falling phrases, featured Orpen’s gorgeous rich clarinet sound. Listening to this piece it was easy to understand why the Times described Orpen as a ‘blazing talent’.

Timothy Orpen delivered a sassy and raucous portrait of the German trickster

Chicago Classical Review, Lawrence A. Johnson

“Much of the instrumental writing [Strauss Till Eulenspiegel—einmal anders, arr. Hasenöhrl] is just as tortuous as in the original version, yet held no fears for the Academy musicians who served up a bravura and characterful reading. Clarinetist Timothy Orpen delivered a sassy and raucous portrait of the German trickster, with equally colorful playing by hornist Stephen Stirling and violinist Keller.”

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble exceeds high expectations

The Plain Dealer, Zachary Lewis

“The Academy of St. Martin the Fields lived up to every definition of its name here Tuesday.

Like any good group or institution of higher learning, the ensemble drawn from the legendary London-based orchestra showed a Plymouth Church full of Cleveland Chamber Music Society patrons exactly how it’s done.

Review – Tim Orpen and John Reid at Octagon Music Society – two of the brightest young stars of the country's musical scene

Octagon Music Society, Tony Bramley-Harker

Of all the individual instruments of the orchestra, it’s probably the clarinet which exhibits the widest range of musical expression – played fortissimo, it can pierce through any surrounding textures, played pianissimo, it can vanish into the faintest whisper: at the top of it’s range, it can be bright, sunny, almost hysterical, yet in the lowest register, the sound can be haunting, threatening, or ineffably sad. So a concert of clarinet and piano music can cover not only the whole sound spectrum but also the widest range of emotional intensity.

Bausor, Orpen and Reid revelled in dazzling exchanges, providing perfect palate cleanser – Royal Northern Sinfonia’s chamber concert series

The Argus, Gavin Engelbrecht

“The winds were given chance to shine in Andre Caplet’s Piano Quintet, with flautist Juliette Bausor, oboist Steven Hudson, clarinettist Timothy Orpen and bassoonist Stephen Reay each given their say. The winds entwined sinuously in the slow movement, while generating sumptuous colours in the passionate chorale. The ensemble negotiated the finale at a blistering pace.”

“Florent Schmitt’s Sonatine en trio for flute, clarinet and piano features four short contrasting movements. Bausor, Orpen and Reid revelled in dazzling exchanges, providing perfect palate cleanser before Faure’s meaty Piano Quartet.”

Lars Vogt, Royal Northern Sinfonia’s incoming music director..

The Journal, Rob Barnes

“Lars Vogt, Royal Northern Sinfonia’s incoming music director, talked, played and conducted his way into the hearts of his new North East audience in a concert designed to showcase both his world-class skill as a pianist and the more recent expansion of his talents into conducting.

The hottest dude on the block

The Arts Desk, Geoff Brown

“Luckily, Orpen’s next appearance gave him room to show off skills other than simple agility. In Bartók’s Contrasts for clarinet, violin, and piano, he was the hottest dude on the block, hips wiggling, colours constantly morphing in a part originally written for jazz master Benny Goodman.”

Soloist Timothy Orpen was in full command during his performance of Copland’s Clarinet Concerto

Westmorland Gazette, Brian Paynes

“The temperature was considerably raised by a performance of Copland’s Clarinet Concerto. Timothy Orpen, in full command of the soloist’s widely-ranging technical and emotional demands, was partnered in exhilarating fashion by a conductor-less sinfonia, dispatching the jazz-inspired textures with great aplomb.”

Orpen displayed dazzling dexterity

The Northern Echo, Gavin Engelbrecht

Royal Northern Sinfonia’s latest concert at Sage Gateshead was directed by violinist Kyra Humphreys, who opened proceedings with a magnificently moulded rendition of Barber’s Adagio for Strings …….

When not playing his clarinet, Timothy Orpen enjoys mountain climbing, having scaled peaks of 6000m in the Himalayas and Bolivian Andes. His latest onstage challenge saw him taking on one of the pinnacles for his instrument in the shape of Copland’s Clarinet Concerto.

Royal Northern Sinfonia musicians do justice to the contrasting works of two famous American composers

The Journal, Rob Barnes

Fans of American composers Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland must be in clover, with their music featuring in two concerts here within five days.
This time it was the turn of Barber’s famous Adagio for Strings and Copland’s less well-known Clarinet Concerto

RNS spotlight on chamber music by composers from the British Isles

The Northern Echo, Gavin Engelbrecht

ROYAL Northern Sinfonia’s latest chamber concert at Sage Gateshead placed the spotlight on music by composers from the British isles written in the early 20th century.

Beautifully Judged

Bachtrack, Penny Homer

“In Appalachian Spring the [Aurora] orchestra dawned beautifully, before launching into lively reels, impassioned addresses and rich lush chorales. Timothy Orpen’s opening of the variations on Simple Gifts was beautifully judged, and the orchestra followed him in invoking pastoral scenes before closing the concert with a beautiful sunset.”

Sheer Beauty

The Arts Desk, David Nice
“the sheer beauty of Timothy Orpen’s cornerstone clarinet solos” (Aurora orchestra)

The sound-world of the basset clarinet, used here to gorgeous effect

Dorset Echo, Mike Marsh

“MELODIC Magic, the BSO’s title for this first concert under its new collaboration with Classic FM, is spot on.

Jamie Crick, replete with electronic notepad-bringing a touch of 21st century modernity to what was a lovely, old-fashioned concert- provided the informative introductions.

Mozart, among the greatest masters of melody, clearly understood the sound-world of the basset clarinet, used here to gorgeous effect by soloist Timothy Orpen.

The Clarinet Concerto is among the best-loved and Orpen’s performance was the epitome of suave, lucidity; producing a rich lower register and distinctive tonal values.

Where the first movement was cheerfully flowing, the contrasting Adagio brought a liquid beauty to its romantic core.

His articulate finale engaged the operatic character and witty infusions with a real sense of joy.”

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra – Mozart Concerto

 Portsmouth News,  Mike Allen

“Timothy Orpen proved himself a musician with a big future as soloist in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. The adagio ‘sang’ like an operatic aria and the outer movements brimmed with a blend of technical virtuosity and varied expressiveness.”

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12/08/2020