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Brotherly love

PUBLISHED: 10:29 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:01 06 May 2010

THERE can be little doubt that Brahms double concerto is one of his finest orchestral works. And the performance given by Harpenden-based brothers Magnus and Guy Johnston at St Saviour s Church in St Albans on Saturday demonstrated exactly why it is so

THERE can be little doubt that Brahms' double concerto is one of his finest orchestral works.

And the performance given by Harpenden-based brothers Magnus and Guy Johnston at St Saviour's Church in St Albans on Saturday demonstrated exactly why it is so acclaimed.

It is almost two years since I last heard violinist Magnus and cellist Guy perform the work and in that time they have added an extra level of maturity to the synergy between them.

Playing with St Albans Symphony Orchestra, the brothers gave a dynamic and vigorous performance yet one which was packed with emotion and, where needed, tenderness.

The magnificent double cadenza in the first movement was exquisitely handled by the two performers who both achieved remarkable tonal quality throughout.

Another high point was the brothers' wonderfully-fiery performance of the third movement and no-one in the capacity audience could have been left in any doubt about their tremendous ability.

It was unfortunate that the orchestra seemed just a little under-rehearsed for the concerto and there were a couple of slightly sad moments when things did not go quite right for individual musicians.

But the orchestra, under its conductor James Ross, had already proved itself with the opening work, Hector Berlioz's exciting but all-too-rarely-performed Francs-Juges Overture and subsequently in their extremely competent performance of Dvorak's delightful and ever-popular Symphony No 8.

The overture has some tremendous brassy moments as well as a delightful theme in the second part, all of which were excellently handled.

And the symphony, which is stuffed with delightful and well-known melodies, saw the orchestra performing at its very best.

The adagio was particularly fine and there was some outstanding trumpet playing at the opening of the final movement.

Because of the popularity of the Johnston brothers with local audiences, St Saviour's was packed to capacity and it can only be hoped that some who may have been visiting the orchestra for the first time might decide it is an organisation well worth supporting in the future.

JOHN MANNING

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