Friday, May 11, 2012

Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert

11 May 2012

I’ve played in loads of amateur orchestras and performed in countless concerts over many years. As a French horn player, I have particularly enjoyed playing music by the great Romantic composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. But I have played hardly any music by one of the most popular and most romantic of all composers, Giacomo Puccini. Puccini was primarily a composer of operas and wrote very little for the concert hall. Our latest Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert last Saturday was ‘A Night at the Opera’ – a programme of overtures, interludes and arias from some of the best known operas. This provided a rare opportunity for the orchestra to play some Puccini, specifically ‘Un bel di’ from ‘Madam Butterfly’, ‘Nessun Dorma’ from ‘Turandot’ and ‘Vogliatemi bene’, the Finale to Act One of ‘Madam Butterfly’ which I particularly enjoyed – it’s gorgeous music to play. We were joined by two operatic soloists, the soprano Sally Harrison and the experienced tenor John Hudson. John is a former Principal with English National Opera who we were incredibly lucky to secure as a last-minute replacement when our original tenor came down with flu the day before the concert. The singers were both great and very entertaining and it was interesting for the orchestra to experience the very different discipline of playing for opera. Because each aria is literally telling a story, accompanying the singers is quite different from playing with a concerto soloist. The ebbs and flows of speed and volume are different every time you play the piece and you need to pay incredibly careful attention. By contrast, Verdi’s overture to ‘La forza del destino’, with which we opened the concert, felt like a very conventional orchestral piece. The programme also included pieces from Bizet’s ‘Carmen’, ‘Cosi fan tutte’ by Mozart and ‘The Merry Widow’ by Franz Lehar, finishing with ‘Brindisi’ from Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’. It was a fun concert which went down well with the audience and we returned to Puccini for an encore of ‘Vogliatemi bene’.

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