Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra
VENUE: The Town Hall REVIEW: by William Marshall
IN front of a large town hall audience, the two most venerable organisations in Huddersfield musical life combined for a true celebration of local cultural traditions.
It was a gala concert to mark the 150th anniversary of the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra, and the presence of the 176-year-old Huddersfield Choral Society meant that this really was a remarkable occasion.
“There are few towns in the whole country, or the whole world, that have such a distinguished musical pedigree,” asserted the philharmonic orchestra’s president, Peter Lewis, at the start of the concert. And he is probably right.
The programme included Elgar, Handel and Beethoven, but in order to show that the town’s musical traditions are not too time-encrusted, there was also the world premiere of a new orchestral work, the Symphony No 7 of Arthur Butterworth, who has long had a close connection with the phil – he was its conductor for almost 30 years – and with Huddersfield musical life more generally.
The symphony is a powerful one-movement work, expertly composed and orchestrated and with an overall mood of edginess and angst, typified by one of the most effective passages – a deep string ensemble topped by a solo trumpet. As a distinguished orchestral trumpeter himself, it is no surprise that Mr Butterworth’s writing for brass is especially effective in this work, which is a thoroughly contemporary composition and yet seems to draw on some of the 88-year-old composer’s early influences – a touch of Vaughan Williams at his most dystopian for example.
Arthur Butterworth was present at the concert and was received with enormous warmth when he came on stage to take a bow.
The concert had begun with Elgar’s extravagant setting of the National Anthem and included Handel’s Zadok the Priest. It was a real thrill when the choral society made that famous entry after the orchestral prelude.
It was thrilling too when the choir entered in the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the “Ode to Joy” setting, which also calls for a team of vocal soloists.
But the work as a whole was very effectively performed by the phil, under the baton of Nicholas Smith, working exceptionally well with orchestra. The second movement, with its dancier feel, had a real swing to it.
As a celebration of past, present and future this was an excellent occasion, which marked the retirement of two players who have each been performing with the Philharmonic for more than 50 years – flautist Wendy Colley and cellist Paul Michelson.