AMATEUR orchestras can and should perform ambitious concerts featuring unusual repertoire and this largely applied to Saturday’s performance by the Slaithwaite Philharmonic.
The concert was given a rather loose overall title, The Triumph of Hope, and consisted of a short, early piece by Britten and the third and first symphonies by Arnold and Tchaikovsky respectively.
Conductor Benjamin Ellin continued to demonstrate that he is working well with the orchestra, for although there were occasional tuning lapses, the playing was generally excellent throughout.
As usual, there were fine contributions by wind sections and soloists – including, for example, a beautifully executed flute obbligato over a plaintive oboe melody in the second movement of the Tchaikovsky – but also some fine tone and control from the strings, demonstrated when the conductor brought the orchestra down to pianissimo levels.
An example of this was a beautiful moment of string serenity towards the end of the second movement of the Arnold – although the mood was soon shattered by a terrific conclusion that understandably led some members of the audience to believe that this was the climax of the entire symphony.
The orchestral works of Malcolm Arnold are still relative rarities in the concert hall – his supporters still feel they need to argue his case – but his symphony was probably the best-performed item on Saturday’s programme, and the conductor and players can be proud of what they achieved with this fascinating, multi-mood work.
Its uplifting third movement justified the concert’s Triumph of Hope tag, although the second had shown that despair is never far away.
The concert had opened, unusually, with a short item for brass and percussion, Britten’s Russian Funeral Music.
After a tentative, slightly ragged start, it came together and made a splendid impact.