St James' Church Sussex Gardens, January 2015
HAYDN Symphony No. 102
RAVEL Tombeau de Couperin
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4
CONDUCTOR Toby Thatcher
By Leslie Howard
'The young conductor Toby Thatcher is the founding director of Ensemble Eroica, and their concert together at St James' Church, Sussex Gardens (London W2) on 31st January (2015) was a thoroughly exhilarating affair.
Thatcher has only just turned 26, and he must be viewed as one of his generation's most promising artists. The thought-provoking programme required no allowance for youth or inexperience, so clear, straightforward and honest were his musical intentions and directions.
Ravel's suite Le tombeau de Couperin is a marvellous showcase for the expertise of virtually every instrument in the band, and Thatcher allowed all the enormous talents of his enthusiastic players to shine through, whilst he kept the whole performance in a nice balance of tidy form and Gallic charm. The Ravel was framed by what are certainly candidates for the two best symphonies in B flat major for a classical orchestra: Haydn's 102nd and Beethoven's 4th. The Haydn was handled with proper degrees of wit and seriousness - Haydn never wrote a more touching slow movement, with the icing on the cake in the shape of a solo cello, here played winsomely by young Swedish cellist Lydia Hillerudh - and the infectious amusement of the finale brought smiles all round. Beethoven's 4th is a work that never ceases to amaze, and it was given a top-drawer performance by a truly inspired conductor and a totally galvanised orchestra. The audience was in turn moved by the simple eloquence of the introduction and the slow movement, and on the edge of its collective chair at the splendid rhythmic impetus of everything else, never more so than in the breathtaking technical marvels that Thatcher coaxed from his players in their stunning account of the finale. An ensemble of which to be proud and a young conductor of quite exceptional musicianship.'