Rousing Olympic tribute
Date published: 14 March 2012
Oldham Symphony Orchestra
A varied and colourful programme of music from all over the world designed to celebrate the 2012 Olympic Games, delighted the ears of those old and young alike who made up the audience which filled the Salvation Army hall in Failsworth.
Led by former OSO conductor, James Morrison, in the absence of the orchestra’s regular leader, Ann Heeks, and with the items being introduced by compere Dennis Bourne, the Olympic scene was set by the Czech composer, Julius Fuik’s well-known Entrance of the Gladiators.
Guest conductor, Alpesh Chauhan, ensured that the message of striving for excellence and brilliance came across in every note, as indeed he was to do throughout the concert.
Music from a different kind of gladiatorial contest followed in the form of Richard Wagner’s Prelude to his opera Die Meistersingers, which is all about competition between singers. It was unfortunate that the shape and structure of the auditorium on this occasion prevented the rich polyphony of this music from being heard as clearly as it might.
Such a disadvantage did not prevent the two works by the eccentric Australian, Percy Grainger, Australian Country Tune and Molly on the Shore from making an immediate impact by the melodic and rhythmic vitality well displayed by the orchestra ’s woodwind and string sections respectively.
And the first of Edward Elgar’s melancholic Dream Children miniatures, fully orchestral, was splendidly shaped and polished.
The first half of the concert ended with a performance of the first movement of the Violin Concerto written by the Soviet composer Dmitri Kabalevsky.
The soloist was 19-year old former Oldham Music Centre student and up-and-coming violin and “beatboxing” star, Farhan Shah, who deftly and assuredly made his instrument sing and dance to everyone ’s delight.
The second half of the concert began with the orchestra’s brass section excelling itself in the Hymn and Triumphal March from Giuseppi Verdi ’s opera Aida. The work which followed, Georges Bizet’s Suite No. 1 from Carmen, gave prominence to oboist, trumpeter and bassoonist — all of whom responded splendidly to their exposure.
What came next proved to be, for this reviewer at least, the highlight of the concert. Covent Garden (Tarantelle) and Knightsbridge (March) from the Englishman, Eric Coates’s orchestral suite London Every Day, were played with exemplary rhythmic precision and tonal balance, and sounded a very clearly English call to musical arms as this Olympic year continues towards the Games themselves.
What could follow such an outpouring of Englishness? Well, the concert was brought to a quite rousing conclusion with a performance of a work by the Chinese composer, Li Huanzhi, his Spring Festival Overture, a delightful outpouring of optimistic sounds celebrating what for us in the West is known as the Chinese New Year.