Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert

21 June 2016

The Cornish composer George Llloyd was born in 1913 – the same year as Benjamin Britten. In his heyday Lloyd was revered (with Britten) as one of England's two great contemporary composers. But his traumatic experiences while serving with the Arctic convoys in the Second World War led him to give up composing for some years and today he is largely overlooked. George Lloyd's 'Symphony No 9', which we performed in the Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert at St Matthew's Church in Northampton last Saturday, was written in 1969. The symphony shows a composer responding to the horrors of the 20th century by deciding to focus on the cheerier aspects of life. The music feels like a, sometimes odd, mixture of the seriousness of Vaughan-Williams and the jauntiness of Eric Coates. But, over the weeks we have been rehearsing it with our conductor John Gibbons who is a great champion of British composers, I think most members of the orchestra have grown very fond of the work and many of us are now beginning to listen to George Lloyd's other symphonies. The final movement of the ninth symphony is a tour de force for tuned percussion, requiring two xylophones, marimba, glockenspiel, vibraphone, tublar bells and celeste, and the NSO percussionists gave a truly stunning performance: congratulations to Keith Crompton, Ben Lewis, Oliver Lowe, Alex Taylor, William Thallon, harpist Alexander Thomas and Chris Henderson on timpani. The concert also featured a beautifully delicate performance of Rodrigo's 'Concierto de Aranjuez' for guitar and orchestra by Graham Roberts. Our programme (of pieces linked to various holiday destinations) also included Malcolm Arnold's 'Four Cornish Dances', 'L'Isle Joyeuse' by Claude Debussy, George Gershwin's 'Cuban Overture' and John Barry's theme from the film 'Out of Africa'. Like the Lloyd symphony, the concert as a whole felt like an odd mixture but proved hugely enjoyable for both orchestra and audience. There were some wonderful solos by Graham Tear (flute), Rob Reid (clarinet) and Nick Bunker (trumpet) in the Debussy, Gershwin and the slow movement of the symphony. But my main memory of the concert will be the thrilling finale of George Lloyd's 'Symphony No 9' with its rapid-fire xylophones. If you want to get an idea of the piece there is a recording of the symphony's premiere on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWCls9RNfxM

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