The Durham University Hill Orchestra completed their final concert of the term with panache, in aid of CoppaFeel, a breast cancer charity. Along the theme of ‘A Celestial Voyage’, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, a program of everything from Star Wars to Dvorak’s 9th symphony did not disappoint.
Opening with the main theme from Star Wars, the enthusiasm and energy from the conductor Ed Walter’s movements translated well into the orchestra’s performance. With lots of character, good balance across the ensemble and strong dynamic contrast, this was like a flashback from the film itself. The confident opening to the concert was followed by Clair de Lune offering a complete contrast in tone. Whilst there was a struggle for orchestral cohesion to begin with, the warmth of the clarinet tone and richness of the cello bassi conveyed the emotion of the piece. The general soft calm of the piece was captured well, although the beautiful flute solo could have been projected slightly more. The violins carried their tune in a high register very well with seemingly little effort. Ensemble work improved throughout and the last chord was perfectly executed.
Opening with the main theme from Star Wars, the enthusiasm and energy from the conductor Ed Walter’s movements translated well into the orchestra’s performance. With lots of character, good balance across the ensemble and strong dynamic contrast, this was like a flashback from the film itself.
Returning to pop culture classics, the Doctor Who Suite was suitably exciting at the beginning with rumbling cello bassi conjuring the appropriate mystery. Despite tricky figures, the second violins managed to play with great rhythmic clarity. Further, the pianist showed good control and cohesion with the orchestra. The sentimentality of part of the suite was well portrayed across the orchestra, and the strings managed to blend across all sections. The brass were particularly impressive with good articulation and bright punchy rhythms. The tutti section was well driven however there could have been more time allowed before transitioning into the next calmer part of the suite. Good intonation in the tune made for a powerful ending to the piece with a perfect unison finish.
Continuing on the ominous energy from Doctor Who, Holst’s Mars, the Bringer of War had the perfect urgency from the start. The crescendo was built and pushed forward, culminating in a musical depiction of power. Although there were some coordination and rhythmic issues, the general character of the piece was well conveyed. The brass were able to capture the turbulence required. The last chord could have perhaps been held slightly longer, but the intention was clear.
DUHO is a non-auditioned ensemble, so performing Dvorak’s challenging 9th symphony, and to a good standard, was no mean feat. The oboe tone was lyrical and the forte string interjection had good energy. The harmonic changes were clear and accurate and the restlessness of the first movement was summoned. The joy of the second theme was captured by all sections of the orchestra and difficult passage work was executed well. More work was perhaps needed on the corners between sections, but the sentiment of the music was spot on. Solos were played beautifully, especially the cor anglais solo commencing the Largo, with a melancholy richness of tone and excellent phrasing and breath control. The wind section as a whole managed good intonation on their chords. Likewise the flute solo in the following movement captured the playfulness and crisp rhythms admirably well. Ensemble work was well executed at the end of every movement, particularly the stab chords at the end of the third movement. Finishing with a bang, the last movement featured excellent string attack and well-tuned majestic brass lines. There were some lovely nuances such as the cello pizzicato and descending clarinet lines which were delicately balanced, mischievous and characterful. This was a wonderful end to the concert. Whilst at times there were coordination issues between parts, the work was done justice and there were several brilliant moments.
This was a fabulous concert for a fantastic cause. A perfect end to summative term, the next concert on the 14th of June is sure to be an equally welcome relief and celebration of the end of exams.