The Palatinate Orchestra celebrated their 10thanniversary with an interesting and eclectically programmed concert in the aptly grand setting of Durham Cathedral. This concert showcased some of the most successful works that DUPO have performed over the last decade to an enthusiastic full house.

DUPO’s Chamber orchestra opened with Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances and the third movement of Dvořák’s eighth symphony, conducted confidently by Harry Lai. The dynamic variation in the ensemble was good and generally the players were very responsive to Harry’s baton. A particular highlight was the first movement of Nielsen’s Flute Concerto, stunningly performed by soloist Giselle Lee. Clearly a master of the flute, Giselle demonstrated her amazing talent with lovely phrasing and tone, handling the tricker passages effortlessly. The orchestra were especially sensitive to their soloist with good balance between the two entities. Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis showcased the musicality of the string section of the orchestra, despite occasional intonation issues.

The second half of the concert saw the full symphony orchestra take to the stage with the first movement of Grieg’s infamous piano concert. Soloist Becky Taylor not only showcased her versatility as a musician (she also led the chamber orchestra in the first half) but amazed the audience with her powerful rendition. There could have perhaps been even more legato and direction in the phrasing and there was the occasional blip. Nevertheless, the scalic patterns and passages had brilliant attack. On the whole there was good communication between symphony conductor Hugo Jennings and Becky as soloist and orchestra remained in sync but occasionally in the tango synchronicity became an issue.

Rimsky-Korsakov ‘s Scheherezade I: ”The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship’ was next, with leader Millie Harding stepping up to tackle the solo that most violinists would shy away from. Millie displayed great clarity of tone, lovely warm vibrato and well-judged rubato in the opening bars of the solo. Delius’ The Walk to the Paradise Garden provided a delicate contrast to Scheherezade. The gradual climax throughout the piece was carefully controlled by Jennings, whilst all the woodwind solos, particuarly the oboe and clarinet, were played with sensitivity and cut through the texture clearly. This was a highly poignant moment of the evening. Following this was the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony, where the orchestra exhibited grace and delicacy.  There was a good resonance in cellos and basses, particularly when they had the melody. Generally I felt that the dance-like quality of the piece could have been drawn out a little more with greater directionality in the phrasing.

DUPO concluded their concert with the electric Danzón No. 2 by Marquez. The sheer enjoyment of the individual players was tangible and it was performed with great energy.  The tempo was well-chosen with the percussion section taking the starring role. Perhaps there could have been even more rhythmic drive and unification in the strings during the more syncopated passages, but this did not detract from a thoroughly enjoyable performance and dynamic conclusion to the evening.

Overall, this concert was a synthesis the many achievements of DUPO over the years. Sometimes the programme felt a little disjointed with movements of larger works being played in isolation, however each piece provided contrast and musical interest. There were a couple of administrative hiccups, with a few messy entrances and exits. Indeed the pianist amusingly had to run to the piano as the upbeat was given for the Danzon! Nevertheless, DUPO provided a thoroughly enjoyable evening, celebrating their brilliant development over the course of this academic year and standing orchestra in good stead for the next 10 years of music-making.