|Blowing our own trumpet since 1931|
|Overture to The Land of the Mountain and the Flood||-||MacCunn||Cello Concerto on B minor||-||Dvorak|
|Soloist - Liwei Qin||Symphony No3 in F major op90||-||Brahms|
Members of the Harrogate Symphony Orchestra opened their 2001-2002 season before an expectant audience eager to hear works by two of the greatest composers of the late 19th century, Brahms, whose style was founded on the deep love and reverence of his predecessors especially Bach and Beethoven, and Dvorak with his Bohemian Skill for melody and orchestral colours.
Strangely all three works in the programme were first performed within 13 years of each other.
The concert opened with the overture 'The Land of the Mountain and the Flood' by the Scottish composer Hamish MacCunn who conducted this work in Harrogate in 1900. A popular work 100 years ago, it re-emerged as the signature music for a TV drama series 'Sutherland's Law' in the 1970s.
The work contains two contrasting themes. The opening with a ‘Scotch snap’ rhythm, the violas and cellos sounded a little tense, but once relaxed the orchestra produced a pleasing performance with some excellent work from the solo horn and the ever-reliable woodwind. Congratulations to the programming committee in selecting a work away from the standard repertoire.
The main work in the first half was Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with the soloist Liwei Qin on his second visit to Harrogate. We were privileged to hear an outstanding appearance from this highly talented young musician. Technical skill is taken for granted these days, what had to be admired was Liwei Qin’s musicianship.
For this work to succeed the orchestra has to be at one with the soloist. It can be an orchestral players nightmare, yet under Bryan Western’s directing the orchestra rose to the occasion showing empathy and flexibility with the soloist’s many changes of tempo and mood.
Throughout the work we heard some lovely playing from the orchestra, especially from solo wind players playing obbligato passages as duets with the soloist and not forgetting the beautiful horn solo in the first movement. Dvorak confessed he could not hear it without emotion. The second movement has a real Slavonic feeling with again excellent interplay between the soloist and orchestra, especially with the three horns playing the repeat of the opening theme. The march-like rhythm at the opening of the last movement created the correct forward movement with the soloist displaying great technical skill. The work ends with a long reflective epilogue where Dvorak gives vent to his grief at the death of his sister-in-law before the final flourish.
Referring to the Dvorak Cello Concerto, Brahms said, "Why on earth didn't I know that one could write a cello concerto like this? Had I known I would have written one long ago."
What he did write was his Third Symphony, the final work of the evening. This symphony, his shortest and his most tightly knit, is performed more seldom than the other three. Here one has thematic coherence and organic unity, rare even in Brahms. The motto which begins the symphony appears in many guises throughout the work binding the thematic ideas.
The orchestra produced some lovely moments. The interplay between strings and woodwind in the first movement, the second movement’s restful opening theme on clarinets and bassoons, echoed by violas and cellos, the wonderful arching theme played by the cellos and later by the horn. All are to be congratulated on a wonderful performance of this work.
For me the second movement produced some of the best playing I have heard from the orchestra in a long time. Great sustained playing when some of the most powerful moments were so restrained the tension was nearly unbearable. The audience must have been won over to this great work by Saturday night’s performance.
- Neil E. Richmond