|Blowing our own trumpet since 1931|
|Charade for orchestra||-||Patrick Lee||Prometheus Overture||-||Beethoven||Four Last Songs||-||Strauss||Symphony number 4||-||Mahler|
|Soprano: Marika van der Meer|
Harrogate Symphony Orchestra began its 2010-2011 season with some very old and very new pieces. For the opening Bryan Western chose Beethoven’s Prometheus Overture.
This was written for the ballet of the same name, produced for the first time at the Imperial Hof Theatre, Vienna, in 1801. The overture opens with a brief but impressive Adagio, followed by melody for oboe. This delightful piece was well executed and set the standard for the rest of the evening.
The next item was a rare chance to hear a premiere performance of a new work. The audience waited in eager anticipation for the Charade for Orchestra (On Ilkley Moor) by Patrick Lee and we were not disappointed.
This single programmatic work, loosely based on the well known Yorkshire anthem of the same name, interweaves fragments of that melody very subtly throughout this piece.
It takes the listener on a walk up onto the moor taking in inspiring views. Bryan Western ably interpreted this piece to the obvious delight of the composer.
This was a refreshing new piece that would not be out of place as background music to a block buster Hollywood movie.
We were then treated to some beautiful singing with the presentation of the 4 Last songs by Richard Strauss. Strauss’ Four Last Songs rank amongst his most haunting music.
Until recently, they were seen as constituting the composer’s own requiem – a farewell to existence, given loving expression by a soprano voice and intended for performance after his death.
But it is now accepted that Strauss, envisaging a performance in his lifetime, wrote the songs specifically for the great Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad.
Marika van der Meer gave a strong performance with her soaring vocal melodies sitting well with the full orchestra. All four songs have prominent horn parts and these were ably played in this well balanced performance.
Finally we were entertained with an accomplished performance of Symphony No. 4 by Gustav Mahler. Flutes mimicking sleigh bells open the restrained first movement. The Harrogate Symphony Orchestra played this first movement with sensitivity and poise.
The second movement scherzo features a solo part for a violin whose strings are tuned a tone higher than usual, this was played by the accomplished Emma Stretch, the orchestra’s lead violinist. The violin depicts Freund Hein, a figure from German art. Freund Hein is a skeleton who plays the fiddle and leads a “death dance”.
The scherzo movement represents the dance and the unusual tuning of the violin adds tension to its sound and contributes to the music’s ghostly character. The third movement is a solemn processional march cast as a set of variations.
The fourth movement opens with a child, voiced by a soprano, and presents a sunny naive vision of heaven and describes the feast being prepared for all the saints, Marika van der Meer interprets this section superbly and once again the skill of Bryan Western enables the orchestra to compliment the singer’s vocal strength.
The movement draws to a tranquil close as we experience some great control from the string section.
This was a truly delightful evening, it is a pity this fine local orchestra was not as well supported by the locals as it should have been, never the less the audience clearly showed the orchestra how much it appreciated the fine performance at the end of a highly entertaining evening.
- Mark Edwards, Harrogate Advertiser