Nottingham Philharmonic Orchestra
October 14 2018
Albert Hall, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
Full-throttle orchestral showpieces from the Nottingham Philharmonic
Sunday afternoon’s audience arrived with dripping umbrellas but quickly had to don sunglasses or risk being dazzled by the Nottingham Philharmonic’s autumn programme. The theme was Italy, sun-drenched and passionate, as experienced by two native composers and two travellers.
The first tourist was Tchaikovsky whose Capriccio Italien certainly woke up anyone fancying an after-lunch snooze. The opening trumpet fanfare was splendidly done by the NPO’s brass section.
There was much lush string playing (in fact, have the NPO strings ever sounded so deeply lustrous before?) before the tone lightened and the lighthearted medley really took wing, ending with all the exuberance of a festival in full swing.
Then came the final Act of Puccini’s La Bohème, featuring young voices from the Royal Northern College of Music. It was good to see and hear performers of the same age as the opera’s characters and, although Iain Henderson (Rodolfo) and Eliza Bloom (Mimi) were highly impressive in the biggest roles, this was very much an ensemble production and the four friends (Lachlann Lawton, Peter Lidbetter, Timothy Bagley and Lauren Coulter) all had fine voices full of youthful energy and passion.
Who needs all the trappings of the opera stage when the death of Mimi and grief-stricken reaction of her friends was this moving and eloquently sung?
In the second half conductor Mark Heron directed a warmly glowing performance of Elgar’s In the South. This is a piece of sharp contrasts, sunlit pastoral landscapes giving way to ancient Rome’s mighty war machine. In the centre there is one of Elgar’s greatest hits, the In Moonlight tune, beautifully played by the NPO’s principal viola.
And finally came Respighi’s Pines of Rome; some musical snobs dismiss it as soundtrack music but it’s more of a masterclass in the art of orchestration. Respighi used just about everything he could lay his hands on, including a vast percussion section, a recorded nightingale and an offstage band of Roman war trumpets.
The NPO made it all sound rather thrilling, especially as the legions came marching along the Appian Way, possibly the loudest noise ever to be made in Nottingham’s Albert Hall.
Nottingham Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mark Heron