REVIEW: Harrogate Symphony Orchestra, Royal Hall

Trumpet soloist Matilda Lloyd
Trumpet soloist Matilda Lloyd

The Royal Hall audience enjoyed an evening of contrasts and drama and, above all, outstanding playing from soloist and orchestra alike.

The concert opened with a world premiere, A Concert Overture” by Harrogate Symphony Orchestra flautist Nick Salmon.

We first heard Nick’s writing a couple of years ago, when he penned a piece for the Tour de France prom – this was a more complex offering, showing his developing ability as a composer.

After an atmospheric opening, the melodies romped along and the whole thing was easy on the ear; a softener for the audience, given the enormity of what was to come.

To the soloist: Matilda Lloyd, at 22, is one of the rising stars of the brass world and the trumpeter did not disappoint. She played the Arutunian Trumpet Concerto, a 20th century piece which has wonderful tunes and big technical challenges.

Matilda made it all sound easy and displayed a purity of tone and a technical fluency which left the audience in raptures. She said the orchestra was the best she had been accompanied by and that this and the surroundings had inspired her to her best performance of the piece to date. She came back to close the first half with an encore of Donizetti’s Una Furtiva Lagrima, exquisitely performed.

The second half was given over to Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony, the piece that saw the Soviet composer’s return to favour with Stalin while also thrilling his supporters.

This is demanding, committing music and the orchestra set about it with a determination and confidence typical of recent performances.

Just a slight hesitancy in the difficult slow third movement, but this in no way detracted from the overall impression. The energetic finale left audience and players breathless.

Throughout the work, it was clear there was a close relationship between orchestra and conductor Bryan Western. What we saw and heard here was something special: enabling the power and the drama of the composer’s wishes to enfold with a passion and sensitivity that is rare in any orchestra. This was Harrogate Symphony Orchestra at its best and this was clearly evident from both the players and audience reaction.

The orchestra returns on June 23 with an evening of popular film music: A Night at the Movies. Tickets are on sale now from the Harrogate Theatres box office.