Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert

20 June 2017

One of the first things you are taught about classical music is not to clap between the movements of a piece. I can remember my primary school teacher telling us, before we attended a schools concert at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester that, even if every other child in the audience applauded at the end of the first movement, we should not. My former boss, Robin Osterley, while he was a music student, attended an early music concert at the Royal Albert Hall at which he felt he was the only person not clapping between movements – only to discover that this mid-piece applause was a deliberate part of the authentic recreation of early classical music. As a performer, audience applause that is a genuine response to the exciting conclusion of a movement (rather than a polite ripple because the audience feels it is expected) is always welcome. I fondly remember such a spontaneous reaction to the end of the first movement of Grieg’s ‘Piano Concerto’ performed by Peter Donohoe in a concert I played in as a teenager at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. So when, in our Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert last Saturday, the thrilling climax of the first movement of the Tchaikovsky ‘Violin Concerto’, played by the incredible young Polish violinist Kamila Bydlowska, drew rapturous applause, it felt like fitting appreciation of a stunning performance. Admittedly the concert programme failed to mention how many movements there were in the Concerto – so some audience members might have been anticipating an early interval glass of wine! But nobody seemed disappointed when we embarked on two more movements that showcased the breathtaking skills of this stunning young soloist. We started the concert with Hubert Parry’s ‘Symphonic Variations’ – an interesting missing link between Brahms’ ‘St Anthony Variations’ and Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’ which really grew on me over the weeks we rehearsed it. I was also intrigued to get to know the ‘Overture to King Lear’ by Hector Berlioz – an exciting piece with two great tunes that seems to have far too happy an ending for Shakespeare’s great tragedy. The concert concluded with the latest in our season of Fifth Symphonies, Mendelssohn’s ‘Reformation Symphony’. I watched the symphony from the audience, as there are only two horn parts, and really enjoyed the orchestra’s performance. This concert programme was another interesting mix of the familiar and lesser-known repertoire from Conductor John Gibbons. We will complete our exploration of Fifth Symphonies next month with perhaps the most famous of them all, Beethoven’s Fifth.

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