Magical arrangement is simply irresistable

Date published: 16 March 2010

Oldham Symphony Orchestra, Salvation Army Community Hall, Failsworth

THE Oldham Symphony Orchestra transformed the Salvation Army Community Hall on Manchester Road, Failsworth, into a feature-packed musical gallery of vivid portraits, exotic landscapes and compelling visions with “programme” music for all the family.

It filled the air for fully two hours with that irresistible magical expression that only music can convey.

Beginning almost wistfully with the filigree imagery of Hercules in subjugation to Omphale so finely spun by Saint-Saens’s Omphale’s “Spinning Wheel”, the orchestra led the audience boldy through the grotesque visions of the opium-filled mind of the artist brazenly summoned up by the Berlioz in the last movements of his “Fantastic Symphony” to where the spice-laden atmosphere of “The Young Prince and the Young Princes”, which is the central tableau in Rimksy-Korsakov’s spectacular “Sheherazade”, seemed to demand that we linger a while to savour it.

Before we had time to pause, however, we were whisked away into the charged atmosphere of a group of orchestral instruments, where scorn is poured by the others on one of the members — the tuba — simply because it does not normally contribute more than “oompahs” to the orchestra’s sound.

Of course, the tuba’s greatest wish — to be able to sing like everyone else — comes true, thanks to the intervention of a not-at-all-tone-deaf frog.

The rags to riches story of Tripp and Kleisinger’s “Tubby the Tuba”, made famous in the 1940s by being narrated and sung by Danny Kaye, can still retain its freshness and impact today, especially when the modern narrator is as dynamic and sympathetic as was Amanda Owen in this performance and the tuba so expertly and sensitively played by Derhim Bahakam.

After the interval, we found ourselves with the orchestra in full flow following the river Vltava as it pursues its course through Prague to its meeting with the Elbe as depicted in Semtana’s celebratory tone poem.

Then with magic in the air once more, and our imaginations fired by its intensity of expression, we experienced something of the warm romance and passion in the fairy story that lies behind the adventures of Odette, and Prince Siegfried in Tschaikovsky’s ballet “Swan Lake”.

The concert was brought to a tumultuous conclusion by intensely felt and graphically focussed accounts of the last two pictures portrayed in Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”.

Even in these days of high definition, it would be difficult to imagine a more striking image of the Great gate of Kiev than that presented in musical terms by the OSO, led by Ann Heeks, under the baton of Richard Waldock.

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