Those of us in the shamefully small audience (where was everyone?) were treated to a heavenly concert, the first of this year’s Willoughby Symphony Chamber series at the Zenith.

After a wonderfully successful first year, the Willoughby Symphony’s chamber music series returns for its second season with three exhilarating concert experiences in 2019. This year the Artistic Director for the Chamber series is Daniel Dean.

This  concert was full of fine ensemble playing which was rich textured and multi layered. First we heard Louise Farrenc’s Nonet in E-flat which brought her great acclaim and, perhaps more importantly, equal pay as a composer, in 1850. The first movement began with a rich, flowing opening for strings and woodwind. The nine magnificent players then entwined in an infectious melody with some bright rather bouncy sections contrasted with soaring lyrical segments and showy solos for some of the instruments.

The second movement had a strong, slower beginning .It developed into an animated yet thoughtful discussion for the entire ensemble. This was then contrasted by the introduction of a dancelike melody and scurries and flourishes on the violins with darting woodwind. There was a solo for the horn (Graham Nichols) and the repetition of a circular melody.

The third movement began in a tumbling galloping manner with waltz like strings. The violins state the main theme and then the woodwind join in underneath them. Then there is a sudden change and the woodwind drives the music leading to a very vibrant discussion for the whole ensemble.

The fourth movement began rather dramatically and sombrely. The melody was taken and passed around the various instruments leading to the friendly interweaving of the ensemble for the conclusion.

The second half of the programme consisted of one of Johannes Brahms’ first forays into orchestral writing with his Op. 11 serenade which originally existed as his Nonet in D.

It began very stirringly and emphatically with a very dance like melody and dynamic tempo. The throbbing, energetic melody was taken and passed around the ensemble interspersed with some electric pauses.

The very fast second movement featured the two clarinets with the bassoon puffing and grumbling underneath. Then the flute joins in , followed by sweeping strings in a different lyrical melody. They are joined by the clarinet and bassoon – the flute and violin interrupt taking us to a quiet conclusion.

The third movement had a dynamic melody and then the horn took in a different direction which was then taken developed, repeated and embroidered.

The final movement was off to a galloping, tumbling start led by the horn this developed into a whirling circular far slower section that took us to the vigorous finale.

The first of the Willoughby Symphony Chamber series took place at the Zenith Theatre 3 March 2019.

Running time – just on an hour no interval