Summer concert

Saturday 26 June 2010
Rob Barnett

“Among many treasurable moments the whisper-quiet playing of the strings in the Mozart was sheer magic.”

Todmorden’s own orchestra under Nicholas Concannon Hodges once again turned in a feel-good summer concert at Todmorden Town Hall.

The programme inhabited the unfashionable and slightly mumsy ‘These you have loved’ territory of forty years ago: nothing wrong with that. The emphatic Copland Fanfare for the Common Man stands a little to one side from the other pieces.

The concert title was ‘Classical Favourites’ reflecting nine shorter pieces off-set by the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in which the world class soloist, Catriona Scott, held the hall in entranced silence despite at least one obligato from a police siren. Among many treasurable moments the whisper-quiet playing of the strings in the Mozart was sheer magic.

The players did suffer the odd intonational problem but they had to contend with a hall which does not flatter when the rafters are shaken as in the Copland Fanfare. Fortissimo moments tend to smudge. Even so, the orchestra did Tod proud.

The Vaughan Williams Wasps overture is typically English and was lovingly put across but the pleasingly diaphanous Banks of Green Willow from the same genre shone yet more effectively: what a grievous loss was George Butterworth’s death in 1916. The crucial role of the harp in the Butterworth and elsewhere was taken by electrictronic keyboard consummately well played by Anthony Brannick.

The Saint-Saens Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah is one of those pieces where you know the music but may not be able quite to put your finger on who wrote it or what it is.

Ronald Binge and his Elizabethan Serenade represented British light music. It was serenely done: floating limpid and lighter than air. Charm and a sort of sly innocence characterised the Clog Dance from Hérold¿s La Fille Mal Gardée.

The two Copland extracts from Rodeo were done with zest. The gunshots and boozy cowboys were vividly put across by enthusiastic percussion and a star turn from the principal trombone. Even so, two such pieces one after the other were too much of a good thing.

To bring the curtain down – or the can-can skirts up – we had Offenbach’s overture Orpheus in the Underworld. This was snappily well done in the raucous and rhythmically resting final section and in the magnificently handled and poetic woodwind solos.

Look forward to future concerts and support this valuable orchestra in times likely to be increasingly strained for the performing arts.