Tonight, I’m remembering back to a clear autumnal evening in Oxford four years ago. As darkness fell and Oxford’s soft yellow lamps sputtered into life around the city, I beat a hasty retreat from my explorations of New College’s mist-shrouded grounds and dying gardens and headed towards the Sheldonian Theatre at the end of Broad Street. The night’s program was all-Dvorak with the Oxford Philomusica, their director Marios Papadopoulos, and cellist Antonio Meneses, performing the cello concerto and the 8th symphony.
My expectations were not high; I was prepared for workmanlike music. Oxford, after all, is not known for its professional orchestras. But as sombre clarinets gave way to a rising tide of sound, I realized these people were playing with fire under the collective asses and chips on their shoulders. The Philomusica may in truth be a provincial orchestra, but it was clear its musicians had something to prove – something I’ve often found yields the best music-making. Technical proficiency is a (far) distant second to commitment and conviction.
The ensemble tore through these pieces with all of the spit and fire and vigor one could want in the fast bits, brass blazing under the Sheldonian’s gold-gilt ceiling and timpani shaking the rude bleacher seats. And then the soundscape melted, pouring into something burnished, glowing, and lush all at once. I’ve never heard Dvorak so serene, aching, nostalgic, and shattering all at once; music paired perfectly with season and setting.
That night remains one of my most cherished concert memories, even among the other hundreds.
Music: Dvorak Symphony No. 8 Op 88, II: Adagio (Oxford Philomusica, Marios Papadopoulos dir.) Recorded surreptitiously from a jacket pocket and promptly forgotten about (the recording) for 4 years.
#oxford#universityofoxford#oxfordphilharmonic#classicalmusic#music#concerts#orchestra#dvorak#cello#concerto#autumn#studyabroad#CMRS 🇬🇧 #tbt
'Shallow lakes of water reiterate every detail of earth and sky; we dwell in a double universe' - G.K. Chesterton
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