|Blowing our own trumpet since 1931|
|Carnival Overture||-||Dvorak||Piano Concerto No 3||-||Prokofiev|
|Soloist: Julian Saphir||Symphony No 5||-||Tchaikovsky|
The venue is quite grandiose and spacious and possess very good acoustic qualities, while prominently placed was a superb Shigeru Kawai piano - renowned for its responsive and tonal qualities. Our expectations were raised.
The concert opened with Dvorak's Carnival Overture, which depicts a traveller entering a city in the midst of a festival. All the throng and revelry of the crowd in song and dance is announced by the rousing opening. After string and woodwind solos, excitement returns with a lively build-up to the finale. It would be easy to exaggerate the changes in mood, but in the capable hands of conductor Bryan Western this was a fine performance.
The soloist for Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No 3 in C major was Julian Saphir, who has gained international acclaim. This concerto is popular among concert pianists but, because of its demands on the orchestra, is rarely attempted by a non-professional orchestra - so Bryan and the HSO can claim a first in the Harrogate area.
Solo clarinet plays a prominent part in the serene opening of the movement, followed by rapid string runs introducing the piano. Prokofiev enjoyed experimenting with unusual harmonies in relation to changes in tempo and dynamics. With rapid continuous phrasing, Saphir weaved patterns all over the piano, complemented by the difficult rapid plucking of strings.
The strings and woodwind open the slower second movement, with the piano then elaborating on the opening statement. There is a lot of tricky, rhythmic interplay between the orchestra and piano.
Pizzicato on the low strings with a melodic bassoon opened the final movement. The piano enters the fray, producing a kind of contest with the woodwind, leading to an exciting finale.
The apparently effortless ease with which Saphir played, the good balance between piano and orchestra and the excellent piano allowed Prokofiev's brilliance and inventiveness to shine through. The demands on the orchestra were evident, but this was an excellent performance for a amateur group.
Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 5 in E minor is a musical interpretation of his attitude to fate. The work uses all sections of the orchestra to good effect to produce the changes in mood and the HSO must be congratulated in conveying the composer's intentions so effectively in what is a demanding work.
The soloist, orchestra, venue and choice of works provided an excellent evening's entertainment. Bryan puts a lot of energy into his conducting - his expressive, elegant hands and rhythmic body movements would certainly get the approval of the Come Dancing judges!
- Mike Wilkins, Harrogate Advertiser