TITLE: Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra
VENUE: Huddersfield Town Hall
BY: William Marshall
NO doubt many amateur orchestras aspire to play Mahler’s monumental Symphony No 5.
But only a few, one suspects, have the ability to deliver a performance that is competent and convincing.
Slaithwaite Phil falls into this latter category. In fact, its rendition of the symphony on Saturday went way beyond mere competence. Conductor Benjamin Ellin and his deeply committed players provided an exploration of the work that was powerfully impressive.
The range of the symphony and its multiplicity of moods defy easy summary. The work looks back and it looks forward, sometimes fondly, sometimes in a troubling way. It demands solo performers with confidence and verve in almost all of the sections of the orchestra and it calls for a huge dynamic and stylistic range.
All of these could be found in the Slaithwaite Phil’s performance. Trumpet and horn soloists were especially impressive. Indeed, the first part of the symphony could almost qualify as a trumpet concerto.
Where stormy playing was called for from the entire orchestra we were suitably buffeted and the weird, almost sinister deconstructions of popular music in the second part were very effective.
The string section of an amateur orchestra can sometimes seem rather exposed when shorn of the colour and support of woodwind and brass. But in the famous Adagietto movement we heard an extremely mature body of string sound, culminating in a perfectly controlled fade.
If there is ever a flawless performance of Mahler’s fifth symphony this wasn’t it, but it was an excellent account of a work that ranges far and wide across the landscape of the European mind. It was another example of the high standard of performance that Benjamin Ellin is conjuring from this remarkable local musical institution.
Within the ranks of the Slaithwaite orchestra there are players who are capable of stepping forward to perform concertos. On Saturday, the first half of the concert concluded with a performable by principal horn player Stephen Wild of Mozart’s third concerto for the instrument.
It was a secure, highly accomplished account of the work by an excellent player, although at times I craved a little more colour and edge to the tone and the articulation, qualities which the rather more dangerous hand horn that the work was composed for would have provided in abundance.