|Blowing our own trumpet since 1931|
|Norfolk Rhapsody||-||Vaughan Williams||An American In Paris||-||Gershwin||Concierto Iberico||-||Torroba|
|Soloists: The Aquarelle Guitar Quartet||Appalachian Spring||-||Copland|
The concert opened with Gershwin's An American In Paris in which the composer encapsulates his experiences on visiting Paris for the first time.
There was the initial excitement of the lively opening section which made full use of the orchestra's resources. With the abrupt changes in tempo, mood and rhythm, we could imagine turning the corner to be confronted by a new scene. In the blues sections, with the use of unusual harmonies which eventually resolved themselves, we could feel the sense of bewilderment giving way to awe and excitement. By the subtle use of percussion effects and sections of the orchestra working independently at times the variety of confusing sounds to be heard in a city was well conveyed. This was an exciting and first class performance which a professional orchestra would find difficulty in surpassing.
Concierto Iberico by Federico Moreno Torroba is a concerto in three movements for four guitars. The staccato orchestral opening with percussive phrases soon gave way yo the guitars. The clarity of the acoustic guitar, aided by some amplification, was wonderful.
The influence of Spanish rhythms on the phrasing seemed to emphasis the essence of the instrument. There was constant interplay between the guitars and orchestra and such was the professionalism of the Aquarelle Quartet that at times it felt as if only one person was playing.
The harp and guitars playing over soft string harmonies from the orchestra in the slower second movement was particularly memorable.
The prolonged and well deserved applause at the end prompted a return of the quartet to play two short unaccompanied pieces in which they were able to display the full range of the guitar and their mastery of it - to the evident delight of the audience.
The Norfolk Rhapsody by Vaughan Williams is based on Norfolk folk songs. Ethereal strings punctuated by phrases from the woodwind and harp set the scene.
The prominent use of the brass, cellos, viola, cor anglais, clarinet and violins all contributed to the changing moods of the songs, which included The Captain's Apprentice as part of the nautical theme. A restful and thoughtful ending complete a very atmospheric performance by the orchestra.
Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring is a Ballet Suite in eight sections and depicts life in pioneering times in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Centred round a newly married farmer, a religious revivalist and followers and an old neighbour there is plenty of opportunity for changes of mood and intensity which Copland fully employs. The eight sections range from very slow to the very fast and from the calm to the intense in conveying the delight of the young couple, daily life, folk dancing and religious imperatives.
The variations of the melody Simple Gifts from Lord of the Dance, introduced by the clarinet, is perhaps the most well known excerpt.
The imaginative orchestration has received much praise but it does pose problems for the orchestra.
This was not in this evidence in the polished performance by the HSO.
Conductor Bryan Western must be congratulated in bringing an already accomplished orchestra to new heights.
- Mike Wilkins, Harrogate Advertiser