Friday, November 18, 2016

Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert

18 November 2016

I first discovered Shostakovich's ‘Symphony No 5’ in my teens, playing 3rd horn in a performance by Stockport Youth Orchestra in Stockport Town Hall, and have loved the piece ever since. I haven’t played the symphony for many years and it was fascinating to get to grips with it again over the past few weeks in preparation for Saturday’s Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert. Having recently read Julian Barnes’ biographical novel about Shostakovich, 'The Noise of Time' (reviewed here in March 2016), I appreciated the ambiguity of ‘A Soviet Artist's Response to Just Criticism’ properly for the first time. It’s a stunningly powerful symphony but its cynical sting in the tail reminds you that all was not what it seemed in Soviet Russia. I think our performance on Saturday achieved the necessary blend of strength and delicacy with some beautiful solos and a devastating finale. We started the concert with another work I first encountered in my teens – Malcolm Arnold’s second set of ‘English Dances’, which was one of the first pieces I played with the Manchester Youth Orchestra – playing those tunes immediately took me back to our tour of the Loire Valley in France in 1984. For the past 16 years I have spent most Wednesday evenings rehearsing with the Northampton Symphony Orchestra in the Edmund Rubbra Hall at Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust, without ever wondering who Edmund Rubbra was. In Saturday’s concert we played ‘A Tribute’ - a short, gentle piece by the Northampton-born Rubbra, written to mark the 70th birthday of Vaughan-Williams. Saturday’s concert also featured the ‘Violin Concerto’ by William Walton played by the amazing Joo Yeon Sir. It’s an incredibly difficult concerto, for orchestra and soloist, but it was a really enjoyable challenge and Joo’s incredibly precise, rhythmic performance helped to carry us through. I was amazed to learn this was the first time she had performed the work in public.

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