TITLE: Orchestra of Opera North
VENUE: Huddersfield Town Hall
Review by: Chris Robins
THIS was not an Opera North concert of the finest vintage – due to a vague sense of pulse and purpose from guest conductor Roland Böer – but still full of their trademark rich colours and clean focus.
Matters were not helped by the choice of opening work, Rimsky-Korsakov’s bloodless Russian Easter Festival Overture.
This one dimensional picture of the gloom of Passion Saturday contrasted with the joy of Easter Sunday evokes no sense of religion or redemption – in fact no idea that people are involved at all. It is overlong for the little it has to say, but would make a rattling good Hollywood movie score.
On the other hand Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, in the orchestration of genius by Ravel, is indestructible. It works because of Mussorgsky’s brutally lucid warts-and-all imagination of the people in the Victor Hartman pictures that inspired the piece. Despite conductorial vagaries resulting in occasionally tentative ensemble, notably in the Cum Mortuis section of the Catacombs picture, it was an effective performance.
The Gnomus and Bydlo pictures were particularly good, and the saxophone solo in The Old Castle perfectly captured the ghosts of past lives.
Mozart’s K488 Piano Concerto separated the two Russian works. Its complex humanity – warm and apprehensive at the same time – needed a more reliable pulse than Roland Böer gave it, and the essential lilting Sicilienne structure of the second movement was flimsy. Nonetheless soloist Markus Bellheim provided much clarity and purpose, and his tasteful embellishments were all to the good.