Music Reviews

“Everything Fitted Together Like A Musical Jigsaw Puzzle” – Concert Review: The University Philharmonia Orchestra

Hannah Walton-Hughes

The University of Nottingham Philharmonia orchestra is an auditioned symphony orchestra, led by talented conductor Jonathan Tilbrook. The orchestra attracts students from multiple disciplines across the University. Hannah Walton-Hughes discusses Philharmonia’s latest concert, performed in the Great Hall of the University of Nottingham’s Trent Building on Saturday 27th November.

After almost two years of being unable to perform, the University of Nottingham’s Philharmonia Orchestra enveloped the Great Hall with its stunning music on Saturday night. I think I would speak for everyone there when I say that you wouldn’t believe they had ever stopped practising. After only three intensive weekends of rehearsing, the standard was borderline professional.

the dynamics gave me goose-bumps

The concert began with the riveting ‘Prélude’ of Georges Bizet’s ‘L’Arlesienne: Suite No.1’. I was repeatedly taken by surprise by its almost constant changes in pace, texture and dynamics. They could not have chosen a better starting piece to grip the audience, and keep them on the edge of their seats!

The piece then gently slid into the significantly more tranquil ‘Minuet’, with its twinkling flute solo, and the mellow ‘Adagietto’ movement. ‘L’Arlesienne: Suite No.1’ ended with the dance-like ‘Carillon’ movement; the lightest of the four chosen. The dynamics gave me goose-bumps, with every section of the orchestra creating music that swelled and soared.

the clarinetist created such a beautiful sound; a faultless performance

Zoltán Kodály’s ‘Dances of Galánta’ was sandwiched perfectly between the riveting ‘L’Arlesienne’, and the epic ‘Symphony No.2’. I could almost picture a thousand dancers in front of me; the piece seemed to move from one form of dance music to another.

Most prominently, this piece gave the orchestra the opportunity to showcase their talented soloists. I am a clarinetist myself, so you could argue that I am a little biased (!), but for me, the clarinet solo was one of the key features of this piece that made it so memorable. Deftly working their way through rapid fingering and tricky note-jumps, the clarinetist created such a beautiful sound; a faultless performance. And the opening dialogue from the violins almost sounded like whispering- it was mystical.

But, in my opinion, the best piece was saved until last: Brahms’ ‘Symphony No.2’. The focus was maintained for an over forty-minute-long piece; a piece of repeated ideas and punchy, unified rests. Each movement followed on beautifully from the last, and the relationship between them was very clear.

everything fitted together like a musical jigsaw puzzle

Whilst it was string-dominated, all of the other sections filled out the rich harmonies. The highlight from this piece was the, at times almost menacing, ‘Finale: Allegro con spirito’- it certainly had plenty of spirit! Full of dramatic dialogue between the instruments, and unexpected ritardandos and accelerandos, the end to the concert was phenomenal.

The amount of energy maintained by both conductor and orchestra was astounding. Everything fitted together like a musical jigsaw puzzle. Each person and instrument seemed to be listening to the other, with attention to detail that deserved an award. I would also like to comment on the choice of location for the concert; the Great Hall provides the perfect acoustics for a performance such as this. The music illustrated the intricate beauty of the room.

This was an exceptional performance; anyone who didn’t go missed a real treat. Thank you to Jonathan Tilbrook, all the musicians in the orchestra, and everyone else who helped to make this such a memorable evening.

five stars

Hannah Walton-Hughes 

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

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