Previous Concerts 2019-20

December 2019 Concert Review: 

DUPO Chamber

"DUPO’s first concert of the year, showcasing the society’s chamber orchestra and conducted by newly appointed Sonia Bae, featured a stunning night of music in Castle Great Hall. The programme was well selected, with music centred around themes of mysticism, folklore and young love.

The concert began with the performance of two of Liadov’s tone poems; The Enchanted Lake and Kikimora, both composed in 1909, which were initially composed for the incomplete opera Zoryuskha. Opening with The Enchanted Lake, the orchestra settled well into the challenging acoustic setting of the Great Hall; from the outset of the piece the orchestra blended together perfectly. Furthermore, the intonation of the string section provided the miniature with a perfect silky tone throughout. It is safe to say that Sonia Bae led an atmospheric performance, grasping the sense of mysticism and charm of the piece excellently.

Following on from this Kikimora was a resounding success as well; the programmatic piece provided audience members with a broad array of musical imagery. The rumbling bass and celli opening was executed splendidly, indicating the pure excitement and raucousness of the piece to come. Of course, I must give a nod to Jennifer Talbot’s lyrical cor anglais solo which soared graciously over the rest of the orchestra. Additionally, Oliver Rice and Emily Pugh’s mischievous celeste and harp melodies brilliantly foreshadowed the chaos that was soon unfold. The following presto section was the most thrilling moment of the concert; the entire orchestra came to life, bubbling with excitement and executing the swelling dynamics perfectly.

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The orchestra concluded the first half with Faure’s Pelléas and Mélisande Suite. The Prélude was performed with a great depth and richness of sound: however, the finest moment of the suite was the Sicilienne, which was characterised through a pensive lilt that could not prepare the audience for the tragic final movement. Movement four was performed impressively: I especially enjoyed the dramatic brass fanfare passages that interchanged with the more lyrical and melancholy moments of the movement.

‘The programme was charmingly brought to life by a very talented group of musicians’


The concert concluded with Prokofiev’s Sinfonietta. The five-movement work, originally composed in 1909, was performed with an engaging energy; the youthfulness of the composer was fully manifested within the music. I particularly enjoyed movements one and five, through which the opening theme returned gracefully in a circular manner. Unfortunately, the pianissimo passages throughout the work were not executed in the most delicate manner; I feel as though some communication between the conductor and orchestra were lost. Additionally, the opening tempo of movement three felt uncertain in places, with the strings and wind sections falling out of time with one another. However, this did not take away too much from the overall impression of the piece, and it was a joy to hear a rarely performed work played with such gusto.

Overall, it was a pleasure to listen to DUPO Chamber’s first concert of the year; the programme was charmingly brought to life by a very talented group of musicians. It was also refreshing to see a female conductor on the podium. I am excited for both DUPO Symphony’s concert in the Town Hall this Sunday, as well as to see how DUPO Chamber develops over the coming year; this is certainly an orchestra to watch!"

Martha Dean

December 2019 Concert Review: 

DUPO Symphony

"The first outing of the year for DUPO Symphony on 1st December was a wonderfully engaging and original performance of Berlioz’ ‘Symphonie Fantastique’.

This pillar of the romantic repertory follows a successful performance of late romantic works only two days before by DUPO Chamber and is proof of the versatility and quality musicianship of the players. The five movements of the piece were interspersed with short scenes- written by Harry Jenkins and delivered by a trio of actresses: Izzy Daltry, Issy Flower and Maniha Khan- which explored the obsessive love that infuses the music. The dark potential of this kind of emotion was realised in the final scene, in which the manic lover resorts to drugs to attempt to satiate his desire to be with his beloved. This was all gloriously reflected by the orchestra: dynamic and expressive contrast was well-observed throughout and contributed greatly to making the piece as exciting as it was; tutti moments were unified, well-balanced and hair-raising, just as Berlioz intended, one imagines.

The third movement featured a splendid oboe and cor anglais duet from Jonty Hart and Jennifer Talbot, as well as several moments for each section to shine, which all the players observed with much sensitivity. The strident and terrifying fourth movement- the ‘March to the Scaffolding’- offered up some seriously good bassoon playing led by Emily Wallace: rhythmic, accurate and intense, driving the music forward. The moments in a concert where it seems to the listener as if he were looking behind the clock-face to the cogs working inside are marvellous ones indeed and will reveal much fine playing that would otherwise blend into the texture. Such was the case with ‘Symphonie Fantastique’, thanks in part to Berlioz’ scoring- which is much more egalitarian in its treatment of the instruments than that of many other composers- but also to the aforementioned sensitivity of the musicians to that scoring. Credit must also be given to the conductor, Matthias Lichtenfeld, for preparing the large forces of DUPO Symphony to such a standard.

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Mention should be made of the lower strings- cellos and basses- who were excellent and provided the essential drive the piece needed, especially in the lyrical and texturally complex first movement. The fifth movement- the ‘Witches Sabbath’- in which the protagonist dreams he has died and is at an unholy gathering of witches, was wonderfully overwhelming; the orchestra was the most unified and confident in this movement and the relish of playing it, in all its loud and vicious glory, came across. The audience were certainly enthused by the excitement of the last movement and the applause was almost as loud as the music itself.

The choice of the Durham Town Hall for the venue was a good one and the audience was full; the reputation that DUPO has as one of the leading ensembles in the university is well deserved and ‘Symphonie Fantastique’, proves this and the that the ensemble is not afraid to explore new ways to present and perform music. It promises to be an exciting year of music."

Tom Rayner

March 2020 Concerts 

Unfortunately, due to the corona virus pandemic, we were unable to find a reviewer for our March performance of Bruckner's Fourth Symphony, and unable to actually put on a concert for DUPO's Chamber Orchestra. 

The symphony concert however had high attendance and received rapturous applause. Members of DUPO felt it was a good performance to have ended the term entered lockdown with!

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