Hull Philharmonic Orchestra – Live Review – Hull City Hall
By Karl Hornsey, February 2019
The latest concert in Hull Philharmonic’s 2018/19 season featured pieces by Weber, Schumann and Beethoven, plus a little special surprise at the end courtesy of guest conductor James Hendry. More of which later.
The introduction of Hull-born Hendry for the evening in place of Musical Director and regular conductor Andrew Penny, who instead took a seat in the orchestra on clarinet, was a wonderful idea, offering him the chance to take the lead on the City Hall stage for the first time in his burgeoning career. A chance he took with aplomb and great enthusiasm.
The evening’s programme opened with the overture to Weber’s opera Der Freischutz, or The Marksman, which allowed the clarinet and horns in particular to come to the fore. The evocative horns, four of them to be precise, denote the life of the hunter in the forests of Germany, with the clarinets taking over to bring to bear some of the more mystical elements of Weber’s often overlooked work.
This relatively short, but beautifully played piece, was quickly followed by the arrival of pianist Richard Uttley (pictured above) to the stage to perform Schumann’s Piano Concerto. Despite the German composer’s fine body of work, he clearly had something of a love-hate relationship with the piano concerto in general, as this was the only one that he managed to complete. For some reason he seemed to have trouble finishing what he started when it came to such matters, until his wife and pianist Clara urged him to turn what was initially a one-movement piece into a full concerto. Thankfully he acquiesced and produced a wonderful piece of music that has prospered down the years, and was safe in the hands of such a fine pianist as Uttley.
Uttley, thoroughly immersed in the piece, managed to impressively walk a fine line with his performance, allowing the piano to dominate where necessary, yet not drown out the rest of the orchestra, working alongside it rather than autonomously. This bold yet sensitive interpretation worked perfectly and was a real treat to enjoy.
The final piece of the evening was one of Beethoven’s most-loved works, his Symphony No 3, or ‘Eroica’. This four-movement piece was one of Beethoven’s personal favourite and he was that chuffed with it that he dedicated it to Napoleon, whom at the time he considered to be something of a man of the people. Once Napoleon revealed his true colours, Beethoven had a rather dramatic, yet understandable change of heart, and dedicated it instead to Prince Franz-Joseph von Lobkowitz, the rather less well-known and certainly less volatile Bohemian aristocrat. Despite its relative high profile, ‘Eroica’ hasn’t been performed by the Hull Philharmonic at these concerts since 1959, marking this out as a special occasion, played by a very special orchestra.
As if that wasn’t enough, guest composer James Hendry had one more trick up his sleeve, leading the musicians in a hastily rehearsed yet greatly appreciated performance of Elgar’s much-loved ‘Salut d’Amour’, to round off another outstanding evening by one of the country’s most inspiring amateur orchestras.
Top image: Cathy Pyle