It is hard not to bounce up and down, Proms-style, during the famous gallop of the William Tell overture, but Saturday’s audience managed to restrain itself. It’s a shame that this section is so often taken out of context because there is a sense, in performance, that both audience and orchestra are waiting for the moment – certainly the Oxford Chamber Orchestra, after a rather tentative start, seemed to acquire a new sense of purpose and drive as they swept everyone along on an irresistible tide of joie de vivre. But the preceding section, with those gloriously evocative Alpine melodies – complete with some splendid solo work from the flute — was also impressive, ensuring that the final gallop wasn’t allowed to steal all the glory.

There was evocative music of a different kind with Richard Strauss’s emotionally-charged Four Last Songs, in which the varying moods were sympathetically captured by soprano Elaine McKrill. You need a big voice to cope with the Town Hall acoustics (and the occasionally over-loud orchestra), but fortunately McKrill has exactly that – a powerful, thrilling voice, which could be dramatic and impassioned one minute, and lyrical and tender the next. Her operatic credentials were very much in evidence in her strong interpretation, musicality and faultless diction, all of which were combined to sproduce a performance that was mesmerising in its intensity.

Anything following could have been an anti-climax, but Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No.3, the ‘Organ’, was another tour de force. Julian McNamara’s organ contribution was sensitively handled, with a warm, full-bodied sound that integrated well. It would have been understandable if the orchestra had been flagging a bit in both emotional and physical energy by this point, but conductor Catherine Underwood ensured that they dug deep to produce a thrilling account of this remarkable work, in which the composer’s melodic richness and orchestral layering were fully explored.

For details of the Oxford Chamber Orchestra’s next concert, visit