OSO is oh so good

Date published: 23 November 2010

A spirited and polished performance of Haydn’s “Symphony No. 104” constituted the first half of Oldham Symphony Orchestra’s autumn concert.

This symphony was Haydn’s last, and probably greatest, contribution to the genre. Composed at the peak of his artistic career during a residence in London, it was first performed there in 1795.

Haydn was a man of great musical vision and good humour, whose delight in exploring the sounds that can be made by the modest orchestral resources at his disposal was clearly shared by conductor Richard Waldock as he secured a memorable account of this delightful music by the members of the OSO, led by Ann Heeks.

That Richard’s association with these players continues to bring out the best in them was indisputably demonstrated by their fine performance of Brahms’ “First Symphony” filling the second half of this memorable concert.

From its long, bold, searching opening to its final, commanding flourishes, Brahms the romantic artist in music, strives here for classical (formal) perfection. Like Haydn before him, Brahms paid his debt to the past by taking what he had inherited and valued into fresh areas of artistic vision and to new levels of technical demands without leaving his listeners out of sight of aim or range of feeling.

So his strings soar melodiously beyond the heights of Beethoven, but never go over the top into sentimentality.

His three-only trombones, which have been kept waiting in the wings until this moment, are summoned on to the stage in the finale to herald a bright, tonal future which stretches out beyond the potentially confusing massed ranks of tubas and other brass instruments called for by Wagner (and some of his more flamboyant contemporaries whose music is now largely forgotten).

Performed with remarkable concentration and intensity by the OSO, this flagship work came to a breathtaking conclusion, and was rightly applauded vigorously by the appreciative audience. 

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