THE capacity audience at Cheltenham’s Pittville Pump Rooms was treated to a feast of classical music on Sunday, courtesy of Gloucestershire Symphony Orchestra and the rising star that is young piano soloist Adam Heron.
The concerto concert officially launched the search for the county’s next Young Musician of the Year, and this year’s titleholder, 17-year-old Adam, certainly set the bar high.
For starters, the 60-strong orchestra gave a delightful performance of Mendelssohn’s popular Hebrides Overture. In his introduction, Conductor Glyn Oxley declared that the piece required some neat string playing, which the female-dominated section duly delivered.
Capturing the many moods of the ocean waves, the musicians coped well with the demands of the intricate scoring and dramatic dynamics. The much-lauded acoustic perfectly suited the intense, rolling melodies and particularly impressive was the way the music moved from a passage of tranquillity and some wonderfully controlled woodwind playing that evoked still waters, to a final stormy flurry and a visual sea of bobbing bows and flying elbows.
But all was calm again as the soloist, a confident and serene-looking Adam, settled in the spotlight next to the Steinway Concert Grand for the main event; to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Major in what was – unbelievably – his first ever performance with a full orchestra.
The Cheltenham teenager’s terrific technique was fully tested throughout the Allegro first movement, with some impressive fast-moving passages and a lovely, light touch that encapsulated the slightly playful spirit of the music.
But it was the dreamlike, lyrical melody of the slower Andante second movement that really showed off his beautiful tone and mature phrasing. Adam resisted any unnecessary rubato, with just the right sense of simplicity and sensitivity.
A huge talent, Adam had even composed his own cadenzas, using the opportunity to further showcase his dexterity with some fast and furious finger-work.
After relishing some enthusiastic applause from the audience, Adam left the orchestra to finish off with a challenging finale – the marathon that is Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony.
An ambitious piece, it put all sections of the ensemble through their paces and what, on occasion, it lacked in sharp precision and depth of sound it more than made up for in commitment and energy. There was a strong sense of passion and control coming from the man with the baton, a feeling of camaraderie among the players that shone out in the music, and some particularly polished and poignant playing from the oboist.
Speaking after the concert, orchestra chairman Viv Hargreaves said she was delighted by the resounding success of the event. The concerto performance marked another big step for Adam on his way to realising his dream of becoming a concert pianist and she hoped his accomplishments would inspire other young musicians.
“Entry for the 2017 Gloucestershire Young Musician of the Year closes at midnight on Sunday November 27th and we are appealing for all those talented players out there to give it a go,” she said.
The competition offers a £500 cash prize and performance platforms at the Cheltenham Music Festival, the Carducci Festival, as well as concerto concerts with the Gloucestershire Symphony Orchestra and county’s Youth Orchestra.
Adam said: “I’d encourage any young musician to take part in the competition for the experience itself – and for the wonderful performance opportunities. Since winning the 2016 title, it’s been such an exciting year.”
For information on how to enter the Gloucestershire Young Musician of the Year 2017 contest visit the orchestra’s website at gloucestershiresymphony.org.uk