Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra Immersive Concert Review 09/06/2018
It is often a shame that orchestras work on fantastic programmes of music, yet only perform it out to the public once or maybe twice. The Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) however, have learned a jam-packed programme of Spanish-influenced music and their concert on the 9th June was the first of a trio of summer performances. I have been playing with this orchestra now for a few months, and so far it has been a fantastic experience. I have made new friends, learned a lot about my playing and have had the opportunity to play some of my favourite orchestral music. Our programme included:
Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol
Bizet: Carmen Suite No. 1 and 2 (Excerpts)
Cole Porter: So in Love
Andrew Lloyd-Webber: Don’t Cry For Me Argentina
For me, the highlights of this concert were the Bernstein and Marquéz, as both of these pieces were certainly the most exciting of the programme. The concentration and passion the orchestra gave to these pieces was so exciting to see and be a part of. The Bernstein in particular is an incredibly difficult work to perform for all sections of the orchestra, and even at the end of the concert everybody had saved a lot of energy for it. Jack Lovell’s conducting, as always, was clear, concise and his friendly approach to this orchestra is commendable. His daring programme has definitely been worth the all the rehearsals.
The orchestra were lucky to be joined by London-based soprano Felicity Hayward, who came to sing some show tunes that Jack Lovell had orchestrated, as well as an aria from one of the Carmen suites. Her performances were outstanding, and it was only a shame she didn’t sing more songs!
With the concert opening with the Rimsky-Korsakov and Bizet, there was a nice mix of known and lesser-known pieces of music. On the whole the orchestra did a good job at following and being sensitive about dynamics and solo passages. Some of the faster passages, especially those up in the higher register were slightly unbalanced at times, with tuning perhaps being the main issue here. It is always going to be hard to control that many people’s tuning, and on the whole it all sounded fantastic. Solo lines played by the trumpet, flute, horn and clarinet were all flawless and added to the professional quality of the concert.
Playing the Marquéz at the end of the first half was a celebration to say the least. Not to be bias, but the brass section were fantastic in this piece, with their sound blending nicely and offering a realistic Mexican flavour to the concert programme. Solos from the clarinet and trumpet were real standouts in this work. Bravo to all!
In the second half the orchestra performed some show tunes with Felicity Hayward, and as aforementioned, her presence was professional and her talent was endless. The overture and Summertime from Porgy and Bess was my highlight here, with the orchestra accompanying her with ease making the whole sound flow. The control from all areas of the orchestra here was commendable, and Jack’s conducting was clear and easy to follow in some of the more tricky changes.
To complete the concert we brought out the big show piece by playing Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. This is a work that was on my bucket list to play in my lifetime, so I was super chuffed when Jack got this out a few months ago! Full of fast changes, complex rhythms and a wealth of key changes, this piece is not for the faint hearted. The piece gave the orchestra a real challenge, and after all these months of rehearsals, I’d say it paid off at this concert. Luckily for us, we get to play it another two times in the next few weeks, so we can improve on our first performance. The orchestra were attentive, professional and played the score out very well.
Overall this was a highly successful concert, and the level of playing was fantastic. I can only imagine this orchestra improving after every concert. If you like the sound of this programme then you can find information about the next two here.
Bravo to all involved – here’s to the next concert!
©Alex Burns 2018
To hear a taste of what’s to come, take a look at this video taken of Bizet’s Carmen suites in the last concert: