Iffley Music Society

By Nicola Lisle

The Society's tenth anniversary season opened at Iffley Church on Saturday September 3rd 2005 with a very special concert, given by the newly-formed Harmony of Nations Baroque Orchestra. All 20 members are recent music graduates, who spent a year touring with the European Union Baroque Orchestra and decided to continue working together. Their name is apt – together they represent 14 different nations, but any lingual and cultural differences are swept aside in the musical unity and sheer exhilaration of their playing.

Under the direction of Alfredo Bernardini, the orchestra demonstrated technical excellence, flawless phrasing and a deliciously warm, rich sound, allied to an instinctive grasp of the different composers' moods and styles. The programme was an enticing mix of the familiar and the not-so-familiar, from Purcell's The Fairy Queen Suite to the delightful Les Caractères de la Danse by the lesser-known Jean-Féry Rebel. This last piece, which brought the first half to close, was a glorious pot-pourri of French dances, all infused with infectious energy and joy. Equally stunning was Albinoni's Oboe concerto in D Minor, with the versatile Bernardini taking the solo part in an outstanding display of expertise and professionalism. Bach's Orchestral Suite No.4 in D Major was an inspired choice for the finale, with its elegant bourrées, gavotte and minuets, and closing Réjouissance – a memorable finish. The overwhelming applause demanded an encore, and the orchestra happily obliged with a hornpipe by Telemann.

The 12 months of working together in Europe have paid huge dividends for these young musicians, who have established an almost tangible rapport. Their enthusiasm underpins everything they do, and there is a positive flow of confidence and technical sophistication from all sections of the orchestra. If these players are the future of baroque music, then devotees of the genre have little cause for concern.