TITLE: Orchestra of Opera North
VENUE: Huddersfield Town Hall
REVIEW: William Marshall
THE musical language of Philip Glass is more distinctive and instantly recognisable than that of almost any other composer, with his repeated patterns of notes and slowly shifting harmonies.
He is the best known of the minimalists, but although he uses simple building blocks his music must be challenging to play and often summons up more beauty and emotion that you imagine his austere techniques would allow.
A good case is his first Violin Concerto, one of his most popular works and the centrepiece of the latest concert by the Orchestra of Opera North at the Town Hall.
The soloist was Jack Liebeck, who does not produce the biggest, most swaggering tone of violin concerto players, but his technique and his chamber music expertise meant the he sought and found all the tonal beauty that can be conjured from the second movement of the work in particular.
This is a slow movement, built on a repeated bass line and the solo part consisted largely of held notes. But the effect was often magical.
The concert, conducted by Richard Farnes, had begun with Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances, a late work with a title that does not quite give justice to its power and range of expression.
But dance-like rhythmic drive was among the key demands made on the orchestra, and the players delivered a potent performance with an explosive ending.
The final bars of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony are also famous for their rhythmic punch. The stop-start ending would later become bit of a cliché, but Sibelius mastered it and so did the players of the Orchestra of Opera North when they performed the symphony at the close of the concert.
This is a symphony with so many highlights, such as the extraordinary bassoon solo in the first movement and the supposed swinging of Thor’s hammer in the finale. The orchestra and conductor summoned up most of the images and atmospheres for which this great work is famous.