DAVID ALDER writes...The somewhat melancholy light of a quiet but overcast November Sunday afternoon was already beginning to fade as the principal horn played the opening bars of the Londonderry Air.
This beautiful but subdued Irish melody served as the signature tune of BBC Radio’s long-running Sunday evening programme ‘Your Hundred Best Tunes’.
The first concert of the PCO’s seventh season paid tribute to this radio series which had introduced many listeners over the years to a large variety of tuneful but quality music.
Conductor Howard Rogerson’s concert programme contained the kind of mix of classical music favourites beloved of Alan Keith’s original radio show and also included some rarities.
In many ways the highlight of the concert was one of these rarities – the first known British performance of Belgian composer Emile Deltour’s Concertino in Jazz for Harp and Orchestra.
Harpist Maxine Molin relished the challenges of the concertino and gave a most accomplished and enjoyable performance.
The rest of the programme achieved a pleasing balance between lively and exciting compositions such as Brahms 6th Hungarian Dance, Carl Friedemann’s 1st Slavonic Rhapsody and Sibelius’, ‘Finlandia’, exquisite miniatures from Haydn Wood (‘A Brown Bird Singing’), Edward McDowell (‘To A Wild Rose’) and Armas Jarnefelt (‘Berceuse’) and famous melodic masterpieces from the pens of several other major composers – Sullivan, Grieg, Liszt, Elgar, and Mendelssohn.
Amongst the lighter moments were the audience’s vocal participation and the exotic headgear worn by the brass – both in Ketelbey’s ‘In a Persian Market’.
The concert also recognised two anniversaries – the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten whose charming ‘Playful Pizzicato’ from his youthful ‘Simple Symphony’ was featured and the bicentenary of the birth of Richard Wagner, who was represented by a skilful arrangement by Adolf Schmid of the ‘Prize Song’ from his opera ‘The Mastersingers of Nuremberg’.
The orchestra, confidently and sensitively led by Julian Cann, produced excellent ensemble playing both in the showpiece numbers and the more gentle reflective pieces.
The wind and string principals performed several excellent solos and all sections rose to the occasion as demanded by the scoring in what was musically a diverse and challenging programme.
Howard Rogerson directed with his usual skill and enthusiasm and clearly enjoyed a good rapport with the large and appreciative audience who went away from the Platform looking forward to more memorable musical moments in the New Year.