Tuesday, December 5

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Hull City Hall

The opening concert of Hull City Hall’s Classic Season was very well attended on Thursday evening. And as we took our seats it was a joy just to sit and watch this magnificent orchestra – its members resplendent in black and white evening wear – warming up.

The City Hall’s grand organ – all 5,505 pipes of it – provided a wonderful backdrop for these talented musicians as did the historical friezes above the stage.

In my reviews, I always focus on the stage setting, but the orchestra itself was all the setting needed. Any additions would have been overkill.

The knowledgeable audience (alas, not me where the classics are concerned) gave a rousing welcome when the tall, handsome figure of Leslie Suganandarajah – the conductor for the evening – appeared on stage.

Immediately I sensed he was very happy to be there, and by the looks on the faces of all on stage, the musicians were equally happy to see him there.

The event kicked off with Overture No. 1 in E minor, composed by pianist Louise Farrenc (1804-1875). A peak into the programme tells me Farrenc’s early music was for the piano, but that in 1834 she branched out into orchestral music.

I know famous classic tunes, as most people do, but this didn’t ring any bells (pardon the pun). That’s not to say I couldn’t appreciate the skill of those performing her music. I was mesmerised by the way conductor Suganandarajah – with a look, a gesture, a wave of his baton – had every instrument obeying his command.

One couldn’t ignore the grand piano front of stage, and when the internationally recognised pianist Mark Bebbington sat down to play after an enthusiastic welcome by all in the hall, the excitement in the hall was palpable.

Playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 ‘Emperor’, his fingers (to my untrained eye), at times caressed the keys, at other times pounded them. His right-hand digits were a blur as they hovered over the keys, making the sweetest, tinkly sound; then the atmosphere became charged as he “let loose” on the deeper key notes.

The orchestra enthusiastically aided and abetted his performance; the whole thing was riveting, and the foot-stomping audience was reluctant for him to leave the stage.

I spent the interval chatting about “nowt nor summat” (as we say here in Hull), to the lovely Helen, who turned out to be the orchestra’s bassoon player. So, Helen, if you’re reading this, it was a privilege.

With the grand piano removed, the second half featured Brahms Symphony No. 4, and, playing this, the orchestra was so energetic at times, I felt tired for them.

You might have guessed by my lingo; the classics is not my forte and I don’t know my crotchet from my quaver. But that didn’t stop me carefully watching everyone on stage and marvelling at their individual musicianship.

Messrs Suganandarajah and Bebbington were the icing on the classics cake – not forgetting Helen, the friendly bassoonist!

The Classics Season runs until June 2024. For more details, and to book, call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 19th October 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.