Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert

14 November 2017

Northampton Symphony Orchestra’s 2017-18 season features music inspired by the visual arts. The opening concert, at Spinney Theatre in Northampton last Saturday, included William Walton’s overture ‘Portsmouth Point’, inspired by Thomas Rowlandson’s 1872 satirical print of the same name. Rhythmically, it’s a fiendishly difficult piece to play with constant changes of time signature and syncopated figures which create an exciting depiction of the bustling port. ‘The Frescoes of Piero della Francesca’ by Bohuslav Martinu presents similar challenges to the orchestra, with few downbeats coming where you expect them. It’s a lovely three-movement work which creates a shimmering sound-world capturing the atmosphere of Piero della Francesca’s paintings. Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ‘Job: A Masque for Dancing’ is a rarely performed one act ballet, loosely based on William Blake’s ‘Illustrations to The Book of Job’. I'm still finding it hard to believe it is more than 32 years since I last played ‘Job’ – in a series of 3 staged performances by the Manchester Youth Orchestra at the Royal Northern College of Music in January 1985. When we started rehearsing the piece for this NSO concert memories came flooding back of that seminal musical experience and I was amazed how well I remembered the detail of the horn parts. Our performance on Saturday featured wonderful solos by Stephen Hague (violin), Sarah Mourant (oboe), Naomi Muller (clarinet) and Graham Tear and Helen Taylor (flutes). I don’t think anyone would dispute, however, that the concert was dominated by Dinara Klinton’s amazing performance of the ‘Piano Concerto for the Left Hand’ by Maurice Ravel. Written for the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein who lost his right arm during the First World War – by Ravel who had been an ambulance driver on the other side in the war – it was a poignant piece to play on 11 November. The concerto is a dark, brooding work which opens with a menacingly deep contrabassoon solo – beautifully played by Frank Jordan. Listening to a recording it seems impossible that the piano is being played with only one hand. It was fascinating to see the young Ukrainian pianist Dinara Klinton making the seemingly impossible not only possible but musically stunning. I can confidently say that no-one who was at the concert will ever forget her performance. Dinara Klinton gave herself the luxury of using both hands for her encore – one of Liszt’s ‘Transcendental Studies’ (the full set of which she recorded for Genuin Classics in 2016: you can watch her playing them at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDHZC7b4u4I). The NSO negotiated these four unfamiliar and challenging pieces very impressively (though with much furrowed brow concentration!) to present an intriguing and unusual concert which was a tribute to Music Director John Gibbons’ inventive programming and effective conducting.

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At 12:25 am, Anonymous Frank J said...

Thank you Robin - that contra solo was a pleasure to play!

At 6:48 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not too shabby solos from Saxaphone, Cor Anglais and Bassoon either!


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