Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert

5 February 2019

On Saturday I played in the third concert of the Northampton Symphony Orchestra’s 125th anniversary season. Our programme focussed on the year in which the orchestra was founded, 1893, featuring one piece written in 1893 and one by a composer who was born that year. Arthur Benjamin is best remembered for ‘Jamaican Rumba’ but his ‘Romantic Fantasy’, premiered in 1938, is a much more complex, serious piece. It is a remarkable double concerto for violin and viola, for which we were joined on Saturday by Stephen Bryant, Leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and Benjamin Roskams (who played Bruch's 'Scottish Fantasy' in a Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert reviewed here in June 2015). Most of us had not heard the ‘Romantic Fantasy’ before but NSO conductor, John Gibbons, knows it well, having conducted one of its few recordings (with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for Dutton Epoch). It’s a lovely piece which really grew on me as I got to grips with it. The two fiendishly-difficult solo parts intertwine to sound at times like a single player. Stephen and Benjamin’s synchronicity was amazing, particularly in the cadenzas. We finished the concert with a much more familiar piece,  Antonín Dvořák’s ‘Symphony No 9: From the New World’, composed in 1893. The NSO has played the ‘New World Symphony’ 20 times over the past 125 years and I think Saturday’s performance was really impressive. Jayne Henderson had the scary challenge of having to play one of the most famous tunes in orchestral music – the cor anglais solo in the slow movement – and she delivered a perfect performance which was the highlight of the symphony. There were also beautiful solos from most of her woodwind colleagues, including Sarah Mourant (oboe), Graham Tear and Helen Taylor (flute) and Naomi Muller (clarinet). And the brass section was in magnificent form, particularly in the finale. It was a lovely concert.

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