“Todmorden Orchestra gave a superb exhibition of musical style and period, from Mussorgsky’s well known ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ to the world première performance of Andrew March’s ‘Elegy’.”
Todmorden Orchestra gave a superb exhibition of musical style and period, from Mussorgsky’s well known ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ to the world première performance of Andrew March’s ‘Elegy’.
The spring concert programme at Todmorden Town Hall started with the ever popular L’Arlesienne Suite no.2 (Bizet) with its weighty opening giving way to some lyrical playing by flute and piccolo over controlled strings. Conductor Nicholas Concannon Hodges led a well defined ‘Intermezzo’, teasing our every bit of emotion before the harp and duet in the third movement ‘Minuet’ delighted the audience. The opening force of the last movement ‘Farandole’ was looking to surge ahead from the start, but was well-held by the tenacious percussion section.
A last minute substitute (yes, it can happen in the world of musical performance) of the vocal soloist, due to ill health, brought the delightful mezzo-soprano voice of Shoshana Pavett to the stage to sing the three songs which form a part of De Falla’s final version of ‘El Amor Brujo’ (Love, the Magician) which also contains the exciting ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ movement. The first song movement ‘Song of the Broken Heart’ began with orchestral strength, but soon the voice broke through and things continued in fine balance, sung in the traditional Andalusian Gypsy Spanish, performed with clarity and precision.
The second part began with March’s Elegy ‘Sanguis Venenatus’ (Tainted Blood), his first-hand musical metaphor for thousands of haemophiliacs given contaminated blood. This one-movement composition reflects well a myriad of emotions through the gradual and ever-changing harmonies within a dynamic arch. The mix of simple and complex textures created a sense of relentless endeavour and inevitable submission, reflective of the composer’s inspiring image of a small bird seized by a buzzard. This was descriptively and ably performed by the orchestral strings alone.
The grand finale piece, Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, renowned for its movements describing a number of pictures interspersed with the recurring ‘Promenade’ theme, provided a fitting end to an enjoyable and well-received concert. The opening ‘Promenade’ portrayed by a confident trumpet playing, set the scene for the trip around the exhibition. The suite concluded with some solid playing in the ‘Great Gate of Kiev’, in which Mussorgsky draws on full orchestra to emphasise the strong musical theme heard throughout the movement, to which the audience applauded with great appreciation.