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Preview: Zürich Chamber Orchestra

Friday 25 November 2016

James Watkins previews the Zürich Chamber Orchestra's concert on Saturday 3 December, part of the Cambridge Classical Concert Series.

The 3 December will see the Zürich Chamber Orchestra bring their internationally reputed charm and felicity to the Cambridge Corn Exchange. They will be joined by globally acclaimed trumpeter Alison Balsom in her debut concert here as artist in residence, and Latin Grammy award-winning Gabriela Montero on piano in a programme of Mozart, Hummel and Shostakovich.

Prior to this season, the Zürcher Kammerorchester were led by Sir Roger Norrington, impresario of British classical music with a famed penchant for historically informed performance (period instruments, authentic orchestral layout, little or no vibrato). He would, on notable occasions, conduct early piano concertos seated at the opposite end of the piano to the soloist, with the rest of the orchestra huddled round in a semi-circle, evoking a real sense of the bourgeois salon this sort of music was written for. Under Norrington’s baton, the orchestra developed their signature intimacy across the whole chamber ensemble repertoire.

Gabriela Montero will join the ZKO in Mozart’s Symphony No.33 and Shostakovich’s Concerto for Piano, Strings and Trumpet alongside Alison Balsom. Montero is an accomplished composer and improviser as well as performer who often writes with a keenly political edge. Speaking in the past of her role as a composer, she has emphasised her desire to "create in the moment stories that are happening now- almost a journalist in that way". Her 2011 work Ex Patria focuses on the domestic problems of her native Venezuela, which she herself described as a "cacophony of chaos".

Indeed, she improvised on our national anthem and Land of Hope and Glory to great acclaim at her appearance during the most recent Proms season. A re-vitalisation of tunes so often associated with dusty notions of the British empire, Montero manages to breathe her signature vivacity into everything she touches.

Alison Balsom, internationally acclaimed trumpeter and Artist in Residence at the Corn Exchange this year, will enchant with her interpretation of Hummel’s adored Trumpet Concerto. Balsom has a long and rich history with the venue and the town, having played here during the earliest blossomings of her relationship with the trumpet as a child.

This year, the Cambridge Corn Exchange have inaugurated a new role as part of the institution’s ongoing commitment to evangelising the arts in all parts of society - the (young) Composer in Residence. The post is held currently by Jay Richardson, second-year Music student at Pembroke College, Cambridge, whose past commissions include laulan, a piece written for Esther Yoo (violin) and the Philharmonia. Jay has recently completed a commission to be performed by Alison Balsom and massed brass at the Corn Exchange later this season, and had the following to say about the experience:

"I’m absolutely over the moon to be working with Alison. Quite apart from being an iconic figure in the modern world of classical music, she's an incredibly skilled and intelligent musician who will doubtless bring perspectives on my piece that I could never have imagined."

With an eclectic programme of time-hallowed greats, a magisterial chamber orchestra and two world-leading soloists who, in the concert finale, will perform together, this is an evening not to be missed.

To book for the Zürich Chamber Orchestra, or for more information, click here.