From Finland to London
“Energetic or delicate the orchestra moved with the complexity and variation of mode expressed across the music throughout the four movements and, as is noteworthy of all their public performances, did credit to themselves, their conductor, their audience and the town.”
The evening of Saturday 19 November offered another opportunity to assess the strengths of the Todmorden Symphony Orchestra in their mixed programme at Todmorden Town Hall.
The programme began with a considered and thoughtful acknowledgement of the change of monarchy with ‘King-Queen’ by Tim Benjamin, a member of the orchestra, known for his output including operas performed locally. This began with a bass rumble, with high wind overlay creating an eerie backdrop which gained pace, with insistent pulse leading to variations of the national anthem before fading away to a diminishing close.
Finlandia is so well known and loved as to hardly need mention. A splendid and dramatic theme with the emphasis on percussion and brass, who always demonstrate their accomplishment as players with verve and confidence. The piece came over wonderfully with its changes of pace and mood before reaching its slow and dramatic ending.
The story of Holst’s Somerset Rhapsody was ably outlined in the programme notes. The subtext to the story is managed by the orchestration of wistful oboe, (Diana Doherty) beautifully played, opening and closing the sequence, with wind and strings evolving into a recognisable folk tune; the lower strings setting a rhythmic pattern and the whole marked by insight and delicacy of interpretation by the conductor Nicholas Concannon Hodges through the changing motifs and the interplay of the writing.
Todmorden invariably offers soloists of high quality. Olivia Tringham gave the audience a splendid example of a set of Canteloube’s re-working of Auvergnat and Limousin folk songs. Two in particular will have been well-known with others of interest to this genre. Olivia sang with a strong opening, well controlled swells and clear melodic lines. She demonstrated good (and unobtrusive) breath control, a requirement of this choice of programme with its long lines, a need for gracefulness and sustained notes. As the songs dictated, she skilfully moved from rhythmic to flowing, pensive to provocative, melancholic to chirpy, conveying each with a readiness which reflected her immediate rapport with the audience, who, rightly, responded with enthusiasm.
The set was supported by the orchestra, (not least the cor anglais, Diana Doherty) with the unobtrusive presence required to support but not detract from the soloist. This is much more demanding of attention to detail than is immediately apparent and the ensemble playing came across with restraint and elegance.
Vaughan Williams’ ‘London Symphony’ moved the tone of the evening from varied to complex. Space does not permit a movement-by-movement analysis, therefore generalised remarks, however unsatisfactory, must suffice but again the excellent programme notes give a reliable insight into the these. To the listener, the overall impression is of huge variety and contrast. Whole sections are featured from the delicate to the robust with heavy to feather-weight orchestration, with the focus then falling on individual instruments. Dynamics range from the full-blown to a lightness of touch, from the whimsical to the stentorian.
Individual sections all handled their parts well, the strings equally capable whether bowed or in pizzicato; the brass, within the North country tradition, forward as need demanded and the wind nimble, tuneful and adroit, with percussion reliably laying the groundwork of rhythm. Energetic or delicate the orchestra moved with the complexity and variation of mode expressed across the music throughout the four movements and, as is noteworthy of all their public performances, did credit to themselves, their conductor, their audience and the town.