LABELS: Signum Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák * Sibelius
WORKS: Dvorák: Symphony No. 9 (From the New World); Sibelius: Finlandia
PERFORMER: Chineke! Orchestra/Kevin John Edusei
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 515
The launch of Britain’s first black and minority ethnic orchestra at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in September 2015 was an inspiring and exciting event. This recording samples a subsequent concert held a year later at the Royal Festival Hall, featuring two popular classics from the standard repertory. While these pieces are always good to hear, one hopes that further recordings by the orchestra might feature works by BME composers that need championing.
The influence of African- American music may nevertheless be heard in some of the thematic material of Dvorák’s New World Symphony, partly introduced to him by the singer and composer Harry T Burleigh, an early student at the National Conservatory of Music in New York which Dvorák headed.
Conductor Kevin John Edusei enjoys a high profile career on the continent, holding appointments in Munich and Bern, and these performances are impressive. Ensemble is notably precise in Sibelius’s Finlandia, where the stern brass section and the tension of the strings provides the bedrock for a dynamic and highly motivated account. Individual wind soloists shine out in the Dvorák, notably Titus Underwood’s finely shaped cor anglais solo in the Largo, while the orchestra’s perception of the music’s charm and vivacity demonstrates a keen sense of character in addition to technical finish. Throughout, Edusei digs into the score, encouraging his responsive players to reveal its drama as well as its lyricism.