Conductor/Violin: Tobias Ringborg
Presenter: Anne-Marie Minhall
Reviewer: Ron Simpson
The Orchestra of Opera North’s Sunday afternoon concert to celebrate Valentine’s Day was conducted, appropriately enough, by Tobias Ringborg who is about to conduct The Elixir of Love with the company. The programme consisted of ten relatively short piecesbut was much more than just a series of romantic melodies. The narration of Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall, though often informative, struck a fairly light note, but much of the music carried a powerful emotional charge.
The major piece in the first half, an inevitable choice in a programme dealing with love, was Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy-Overture: Romeo and Juliet, where solemn chorales and street brawls brought to life in fragments of sound give way to an increasingly dominant love theme. Ringborg vividly brought out the dramatic contrasts within the piece. Equally powerful, in the second half, was his intense treatment of the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, the composer’s own concert version of the overture and Isolde’s Act 3 aria that bookend an opera devoted to the transfiguring power of love.
However, Opera North being Opera North, there had to be a bit of Broadway, along with the major classical works. Each half finished with dance music from a great Broadway show. Premiered within four months of each other in 1944/1945, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town could not be more different in musical idiom. Offering a reminder of one of the company’s most successful productions of a Broadway musical, the ballet music from Carousel, in Don Walker’s rich orchestration, moved from the jauntiness of the famous waltz to the appealing sentiment of If I Loved You, growing from a murmuring cello theme to a full orchestral assault on the emotions.
The Three Dance Episodes from On the Town brought the concert to a triumphant conclusion, the jazzy Dance of the Great Lover followed by the Pas de Deux, with its inspired writing for woodwind, pairing clarinet and bass clarinet with great subtlety, and finally the dynamic explosion of sound of the Times Square Ballet, with wonderfully exciting playing from all sections of the orchestra.
One of the great strengths of the Opera North orchestra is its versatility, its ability to play many styles of music as though each was its speciality. So it was the work of a moment to switch from the brash overture to South Pacific – There is Nothing like a Dame and the rest – to the much loved Nimrod from Enigma Variations which may have had a rather tenuous connection to the theme of the concert, but was welcome anyway. Or from the glittering orchestration of Richard Strauss’s waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier to the New York pzazz of On the Town.
And, to prove that Tobias Ringborg is as versatile as the orchestra, he switched roles to give a sensitive reading of the solo violin part in Wilhelm Stenhammar’s charming and melodic Two Sentimental Romances, probably the least familiar item in a popular programme.
Reviewed on 14 February2016 | Image: Contributed