Reviewed by Simon Ames

It was a sad contemplation that this concert was to be a finale for the 45-year old Reigate Philharmonic Society (RPS), though their energetic founder and artistic director Christopher Slater was philosophical about it.

Musical selection for the gala occasion at Reigate Park Church reflected the groundbreaking and innovative policy which has driven the Society onwards and upwards so successfully for nearly half a century. A mixture of Wagner and Mozart with Copland and Slater Junior turned out to be a compelling formula that was enjoyed by a good audience of discerning aficionados.

The New Chamber Orchestra, led by Gonzalo Acosta from English National Opera (ENO), was highest quality.

Richard Wagner’s thoughtful piece Siegfried Idyll was inspired at his lakeside house on Lucerne and created as a 31st birthday present to his wife Cosima who was born on Christmas Day, The serene, dreamy musical phrasing of the composer’s original version was a rare delight.

International pianist Carole Presland played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 11 in F (K413) with classical finesse. The orchestra, suitably modified to evoke the baroque sound, produced an excellent balance.

Mark Slater, son of maestro Christopher, introduced his own composition called Awakening – a world premier for the concert. Clearly a talented musician, Mark’s ingeniously abstract work gains much from his recent experience as a composer in the film industry with bi-tonal stanzas and where rapid adjustments are made to pace and mood. It was very well received.

Finale was Aaron Copland’s outstanding ballet music Appalachian Spring for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945. The music conveys a farming landscape in Pennsylvania with young people acting out their feelings. Towards the end, the traditional Shaker tune Simple Gifts is Introduced – and then subtly varied. It was a formidable performance under Christopher’s baton.

Christopher Slater’s contribution to good music In Reigate through the RPS was recognised by the presence of Mayor of Reigate and Bansteaol, Cllr Dorothy Ross-Tomlin and chairman of Mole Valley District Council, Cllr Jean Pearson. He was presented with an elaborate new music stand for his scores, with thanks and appreciation.

Source: Surrey Mirror. 20 April 2008

Mark Slater (seated at piano) with his father RPS conductor Christopher Slater (back right) and Gonzalo Acosta, who led the New Chamber Orchestra. Photo: Simon Ames