“IF THERE’S an empty seat in the house for this concert then I’ll be very unhappy.”
That was the view of Dougie Scarfe, now with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra but before that concert director for the Orchestra of Opera North and the man largely responsible for the current orchestral season programme.
“It’s one of the greatest orchestral experiences for an orchestra and for an audience,” he said.
“Orchestrally it is the biggest we’ve ever put on in this hall.”
What he is talking about is tomorrow’s orchestral concert in Huddersfield Town Hall when the musicians from Opera North will play Mahler’s Sixth.
“We’re extending the stage to fit everything in. This audience deserves to have the big Mahler.
“It’s not an easy piece for us to put on and this is the first time that we have played it.
“In putting this work on, we really had to give you the conductor who the orchestra has the most extraordinary relationship with and that’s Jac Van Steen.
“He’s a great guy. He rehearses immaculately and then the performance really lets go.
“His relationship with the orchestra is very strong.”
Kirklees Borough organist Gordon Stewart remembers well the first time that he heard the piece.
“It was when I was a student and it was played by the Hallé,” he said.
“I was bowled over. I got back to the flat and I couldn’t sleep.”
There may well be a few sleepless nights had on Saturday after what promises to be an epic performance of this huge piece. Word has it there could be more than 80 musicians on stage for this.
Jac Van Steen, as well as being a season favourite, is a Mahler expert and this massive musical commitment from Opera North needs his kind of expertise.
After all, this Mahler is hugely emotional containing everything from imperious march music, to moments of pastoral repose (complete with cowbells), and heaven-storming passages overflowing with joy.
There will be a second piece included in the programme, and though it is on a smaller scale, it is no less intense than the Mahler.
The orchestra will play Haydn’s Symphony No 4 in E Minor “Tragic.”.
What is likely to be perhaps the most memorable Orchestra of Opera North concert of the year begins at 7.30pm and there is a Talking Music session at 6.40pm.