Review: Orchestra of Opera North****

At Huddersfield Town Hall

Many thanks to the Orchestra of Opera North for being there in the foul weather. A lot of the audience made it too – most of us choosing hiking boots as the concert footwear de nos jours.

Many thanks, also, for an evening of Russian romantic repertoire that avoided the boringly obvious.

Rimsky-Korsakov was at his best with folk-fantasy subjects, as in his May Night Overture. Conductor Pablo Gonzlez, on his Opera North Orchestra debut, made the slow sections particularly slow and gave us more detailed phrasing than the piece warrants, but a delightful performance nonetheless.

If there was a slightly edgy quality to the difficult orchestral introduction of the Third Piano Concerto by Prokofiev, a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov, it is worth noting that a day's rehearsal had been lost to the weather, and therefore the whole concert was a remarkable achievement.

This was Prokofiev at his wittiest, cheekiest and most ironic –all qualities this orchestra does superbly.

Soloist John Lill, himself a considerable wit, sailed through in magnificent form.

Stravinsky was also a Rimsky-Korsakov student, and it is fascinating to hear how his bending of tonality in The Firebird is similar to his teacher's in May Night.

This detail was apparent because Gonzlez's Firebird, like his Prokofiev, had wit, cheek and subtlety rather than the pretentious menace we usually hear.