Audience engagement depends on the electricity generated by the music taking the shortest possible route from performers to listener. Just as E. M. Forster explained how "Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted", so, only connect the music and the passion, and both will be exalted. As in the new CD from the Orchestra of St Paul's conducted by its artistic director Ben Palmer seen above. The headline work on the disc is the relatively familiar String Quartet of Edward Elgar in an unfamiliar but engaging arrangement for strings by David Matthews. Coupled with it is the masterly but predictably neglected Second String Quartet of Malcolm Arnold arranged as a Sonata for Strings by David Matthews, and Robert Simpson's own arrangement of the searing Allegro Deciso from his Third String Quartet. This is fiendishly difficult music for a quartet, yet alone a sixteen-strong string ensemble. But the Orchestra of St Paul's advocate it with an edge of the seat intensity and technical brilliance that contrasts sharply with the 'health and safety' approach favoured by today's 'A list' orchestras. The music is captured in visceral sound - violins are seated to left and right of the conductor - in St Mary's Church, Walthamstow by the production team of independent label Somm, and the CD is enhanced by erudite sleeve notes from Ben Palmer; when did you last find Dudamel, Gergiev or Rattle taking the time to share their musical passions in a sleeve note? Audience engagement is not about superstar conductors, celebrity interviews over lunch at braggable restaurants, cutting through classical websites, or click bait blogs - it is is about the kind of music making found on this new CD.
I bought the new CD from the Orchestra of St Paul's at Prelude Records in Norwich. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.