Reviews of Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra's concerts


11th February 2017

There was a large audience on a miserable evening for the winter concert of the Harrogate Philharmonic at St. Mark's Church. The programme was an interesting and unusual one, with the two well-known Scottish works of Felix Mendelssohn, the "Hebrides" Overture and the 3rd Symphony to start and finish and dance-influenced works by Glinka and Kodaly in between.

Mendelssohn's tour of Scotland in 1829 prompted both of the works played. The overture reflects the composer's reaction to the ruins and scenery that he saw, and to the weather both gentle and stormy that he experienced. It is one of the great evocations of these in romantic classical music, and was speedily completed. The symphony, however, took over 13 years to bring to performance and reflects in its style and construction the deepening experience of the 20 year old Mendelssohn. In both works the orchestra excelled itself; the strings were full-bodied, vivaciously led by Rachael Unsworth, with an admirable balance with the other sections; the woodwind played their various solos with great feeling and presentation. The orchestra has recently also played the 4th Symphony (the Italian") and will perform the Violin Concerto at their next concert: there is clearly a real rapport with Mendelssohn, shared by the orchestra and their conductor, George Kennaway.

Glinka's fantasy piece "Karaminskaya" dates from the earliest days of Russian national music, and this is the first orchestral piece based on Russian folk melodies, first a slow wedding song and then a dance motif, repeated as long as the dance continued: Glinka used it some 70 times but constantly changing harmony or orchestration. It is a very effective opportunity for the orchestra to show their abilities and deserves to be performed more often. The second shorter piece - Kodaly's "Dances of Galanta" is described as a dance rhapsody, a very apt comment. There are plenty of opportunities for the players to show their technical skill and musicianship especially for the woodwind and particular reference must be made again to the prominent role of the solo clarinet, excellently played by Diana Critchley. Altogether a most enjoyable performance.

In all of the works, the orchestra played with verve and enjoyment, which was transmitted to the audience. They clearly understand their Mendelssohn and the next concert (July 8 at St. Aidans) includes, as noted above, his popular Violin Concerto. Also on the programme is the Symphony in G minor by Sir William Sterndale-Bennett, a mid-nineteenth century Yorkshireman: I wonder when that was last played in Harrogate? It will be a concert very well-worth hearing.

J.R.Watkins.

16th October 2016

Brilliant playing by Philharmonic Orchestra at St Aidan's

The Constance Green Hall at St Aidan's School made an excellent venue for the Autumn Concert given by Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra. Under its Conductor, George Kennaway and with Soloist Emily Watson-Breeze, clarinet, the orchestra played an attractive programme of music comprising three works.
The first, three movements from the Suite for Ten Winds and Harp by Cossart, featured the woodwind instruments plus horns and with the addition of the harp. Sensitive playing with beautifully balanced melodic moments characterized these pieces, the harp warming the overall effect.
The second work, the Concerto for Clarinet and Strings Op 31 by Finzi introduced us to the soloist Emily Watson-Breeze. Emily, already well-established as a soloist on her instrument, performs with a style and sense of professionalism which belies her age. Finzi's sense of harmony is faultless but his treatment of dissonance can seem slightly off-putting. George Kennaway guided the strings of the orchestra safely through their taxing accompaniment with a relaxed ease. The second movement was sheer magic with an amazing sense of musical control and feeling from Emily and lovely warm support from the orchestra.
Following the interval, the audience were treated to a tremendously exciting performance of the fourth Symphony by Felix Mendelssohn the Italian Symphony. From the very outset the sheer sense of enjoyment pervaded conductor, performers and audience. Woodwind and horns played with splendid verve, accuracy and superb clarity, while the strings worked very hard and with great success. The gentle tread of the second movement maintained with great discipline by the lower strings never lost the sense of the crotchet pulse within the quaver movement. The last movement was full of light and joy with lovely playing throughout the orchestra.
This was a really good afternoon of great musical entertainment of the highest quality.
Adrian Selway

13 February 2016


17th October 2015

The Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra's evening of works by Handel, Boyce, Weber and Mozart provided its large audience with a delightful evening of contrasts, giving the lie to any suggestion that an orchestral concert involving three symphonies would turn out to be worthy but uninviting.

As the encyclopaedic programme notes pointed out, William Boyce's 4th Symphony was originally an overture. The orchestra's strings eased themselves effortlessly into the work's contrasting moods, matched with equal style by crisp and energetic playing from the oboes and horns.

Handel's Concerto Grosso, Op 6, No 6, was, for me, the highlight of the evening: the strings dealt sensitively with extremes of volume, and their pianissimo playing was admirable for its tight ensemble and careful tuning. Leader Rachael Unsworth's elegantly understated rendition of the virtuosic solo violin part was a delight, and the accompaniment was managed with grace and perfect balance.

Weber's Symphony No 2, described by conductor George Kennaway in his introduction as 'one of the oddest symphonies I've ever encountered', featured finely-executed solo passages from the orchestra's woodwind department, as well as fine brass playing. The busy string writing sparkled, though the overall balance was, perhaps a little bass-heavy at times.

This evening of three symphonies finished with Mozart's ever-popular 'Jupiter' Symphony, and the orchestra's evident enjoyment of this often difficult work was evident in both the spirited playing and the broad smiles at the end. Throughout, the playing was taut and energetic, and the second movement in particular had a marvellous sense of forward movement as well as a carefully-controlled balance of dark and light.

A thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining evening all in all, and deserving of a very much larger audience. The next concert, on 13th February, featuring Elgar's Cello Concerto, must, on the basis of this evening's performance alone, be worth putting in the diary!

David Barker

14 February 2015 - Harrogate Philharmonic Thrills Valentine's Day Audience

The nave of St Mark's Church was filled almost to capacity to greet Harrogate's Philharmonic Orchestra under its Conductor, George Kennaway for its first concert of 2015.

The Orchestra, admirably led by Eric Clark, presented a most attractive programme of works beginning with the popular Overture to Mozart's opera 'The Magic Flute'. This work was quite a severe test for the Orchestra so early in the overall programme but even so, following the opening chords, the fugato sections were clearly articulated in both major and minor throughout the work with splendid support from both woodwind and brass; some of the woodwind passages being particularly entrancing.

The second work of the evening featured the cello soloist Laura Armstrong in a performance of Kol Nedrei by Max Bruch. This work is based on two Hebrew melodies and in this performance, the audience were treated to some quite exquisite cello playing from the soloist as well as some delightful playing on the harp which also has a prominent part in this work. Miss Armstrong demonstrated her superb artistry as she, at times took a clear solo lead whilst at other times she blended in with the orchestra smoothly emerging again to assume the solo role. George Kennaway coaxed and moulded delightful supporting tones from the Orchestra producing an excellent performance of this unusually attractive work. The final work before the interval was the Suite No 4 by Tchaikovsky entitled 'Mozartiana'. In this rather unusual piece, Tchaikovsky chose a selection of four Mozart works and freely orchestrated them. His arrangement of Mozart's Ave Verum based on Liszt's transcription was beautifully played as was the set of ten variations which formed the final item, the ninth variation containing an amazing extended violin solo brilliantly executed by the Leader of the Harrogate Philharmonic, Eric Clark. Our view of Mozart as a composer has changed radically since the days of Tchaikovsky but nevertheless, this Suite made an attractive addition to the evening.

The second half of the Concert consisted of a performance of the Sixth Symphony by Beethoven, the 'Pastoral' Symphony. This most popular and elegant of the nine Symphonies composed by Beethoven makes huge demands on orchestras and conductors alike. This performance was characterised by the sheer sense of control by the Conductor and the superb concentration and performance of the Orchestra. George Kennaway judged the tempos of the individual movements exceptionally well, especially the second movement showing the true effect of the divisi lower strings. The audience shared the merriment, the coming and passing of the storm, the splendid woodwind section that performed so well all evening and the final prayer of thankfulness bringing this splendid concert to an end.

This concert must rank as one of the finest the Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra has performed. We must thank the Conductor, Orchestra and Soloist who filled the evening with such lovely music - a delight to the ear. What a splendid way to celebrate Valentine's Day!

Adrian Selway

19 October 2014

The newly refurbished Soothill Hall at Ashville College was the venue for the Autumn Concert given by Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra under its Conductor George Kennaway, on Sunday 19th October. The Orchestra presented a most attractive programme of works from the Baroque Era through to the work of later Romantic composers opening with the Symphony 83 in G minor 'The Hen' by Haydn. The Orchestra, led by Eric Clark made a bold and very confident start to the stormy nature which pervades much of the first movement. Haydn maintains the dark tonality for much of the movement bursting forth gloriously into the major in the recapitulation; the orchestra seemed to relish this moment, rightfully so! This charming, yet forceful symphony was given a good account and made a good opening to the concert.

The second work played was Bach's Brandenburg Concerto in F major. These fine works of typical Concerto Grosso Form feature groups of soloists within the main orchestra-the group for this being trumpet, Mike O'Farrell, oboes, Pippa Bradbury and Gill Hart, flute, David Barker, Violin, Eric Clark and cello, Fiona Mayo. All played extremely well but special mention must go to Mike O'Farrell who played the trumpet part in the first and third movements, still to this day regarded as one of the most difficult in the repertoire, with brilliance. The lightly scored second movement was one of the highlights of the afternoon with some beautifully phrased playing from all members of the concertino group, the continuo marking the time with beautifully measured tempo. The final movement again featuring amazingly lofty notes on the trumpet was taken at a beautifully measured tempo by George Kennaway. Both concertino and ripieno players performed with great skill throughout what was an excellent performance of this Bach Concerto.

The penultimate item in the programme was a performance of The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by Handel from his oratorio 'Solomon'. This ever-popular work, often heard at weddings, was given a crisp and extremely tidy performance by both strings and woodwind. The interplay of string parts in Handel's writing was obviously being enjoyed by the players; it was lovely to see the slight informality of players really enjoying themselves whilst giving immense pleasure to others.

The final work in this most attractive programme was the Suite 'La Boutique Fantasque' by Rossini, orchestrated from the composer's original piano version by Respighi at the request of Diaghalev to form a ballet suite. Altogether eleven items were played ranging from the elegance of the Valse Lente through the lively and characteristic Tarantella through to the very jolly Can Can. Orchestrally, this is quite tricky music to perform - almost like a jig-saw, all the different components having to fit together perfectly. Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra, under its Conductor George Kennaway and ably led by Eric Clark gave a good account of its ability to tie most of the ends together bringing to and end what was a very pleasant and entertaining concert.

Adrian Selway

21 June 2014

In spite of the beautiful evening on Saturday, a good and sizeable audience left their gardens and came to St Mark's Church on Leeds Road to hear the Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra under its Conductor George Kennaway perform its Summer Concert. The Orchestra does have many faithful followers but it was good to see others there as well bringing the audience numbers to nearly seventy.

The programme comprised three works, the first of which was Haydn's Symphony No 92 in G major known as the Oxford Symphony. Haydn's music is always stimulating and very often truly exciting with daring use of tonality and unusual phrase-lengths. The Orchestra, ably led by Eric Clark set about their task with determination and, following the slow introduction took the audience on a thrilling journey through the first movement. The strings took just a little time to settle in their task but ably supported by woodwind and brass, all was soon secured. The glowing warmth of the strings opened the Adagio which also featured beautiful playing from the woodwind and horns especially towards the end of the movement, just before the Coda. The third movement, Minuetto Allegretto is notable for its cross-accented rhythms as demonstrated by George Kennaway at the end of the symphony when he invited a member of the audience to conduct one of the tricky sections; a highlight of the evening!

The second work of the programme was the Sinfonietta Opus 34 by Lennox Berkeley. This interesting work was written in 1950 and gave the opportunity for the Orchestra to show its power of creating tonal colour through the rich tapestry of the composer's score. In the second movement, for example there were some absolutely beautiful flute, oboe and clarinet solos, well supported by horns and bassoon; the strings blending in with great subtlety and care.

After the Interval, The second half of the concert consisted of one work, the Third Symphony by the British composer Sir Hubert Parry. From the outset of this once highly popular work otherwise known as The English Symphony the listener could tell at once its country of origin. The curve of the string phrases and the broad strokes of melodic line eloquently played and skilfully handled by George Kennaway painted a music picture of an England still living in our hearts even if, perhaps, lost on us many years ago. The first movement, carefully crafted was played from the heart but the second movement was, musically, sheer delight in its caressing warmth and sheer beauty of phrasing from all sections of the orchestra but especially the strings who created a superb chorus matched by woodwind and brass. The horn section produced beautiful well-controlled tone not only here but throughout the evening and the long unwinding and climactic last movement brought this magnificent work and the evening to a splendid end.

George Kennaway and Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra led by Eric Clark worked extremely hard to provide this splendid evening of music and we thank them all for that. Adrian Selway

9 February 2014


19 October 2013


29 June 2013 - two reviews!

Hooray for the Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra ! Their concert at St. Mark's Church last Saturday evening was brilliant. Amidst an endless ocean of "Pathetiques", "Emperors", "Enigmas". Christmas "Messiahs" and wall-to-wall Max Bruch violin concertos - all fine works, but played to death - the HPO has the intellectual integrity to ignore the "top of the pops" mentality. Instead, conductor George Kennaway and his colleagues provide programs that enable audiences to extend their pleasure in music; and who but a fool would not want to extend their pleasure?. The concert opened with the five delightfully tuneful movements of Dvorak's American Suite, followed by a superb rendering of Saint-Saens richly romantic and powerful Cello Concerto no.1, with the highly talented Oliver Farrant. After the interval came what must have been the Harrogate premier of Charles Ives' Symphony no.3 which, with its interweaving of familiar hymn tunes within complex orchestration is one of the American masters most typical works. An unexpected delight, which - at least for this writer - was a discovery, was Artur Honegger's "Pastorale d'ete", written in about 1920, the gently bucolic atmosphere of which was perfect for a pleasant but cool Harrogate summer's evening. Literate and informative program notes added to the enjoyable orchestral playing, and it only remains for me to thanks the musicians and advise music lovers to keep their eyes skinned for the next performance by the Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra. Malcolm Neesam.


 

9 February 2013


 

11 February 2012


 

15 October 2011

 

19 June 2011

 

11 February 2011

 

23 July 2010

 

27 February 2010

 

15 November 2009

 

4 July 2009

 

7 February 2009

 

15 November 2008

 

2 February 2008