Venue: Huddersfield Town Hall
Review: By William Marshall for the Huddersfield Examiner
The combination of the Huddersfield Phil and Huddersfield Choral Society resulted in a powerful, at times rafter-raising performance of the concert suite from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.
It is a story that has tragic, violent twists but the optimistic spiritual at its close left the audience uplifted.
Conductor Robert Guy kept the large forces well-co-ordinated and balanced, and what a pleasure it must be to have not only an orchestra but also such a superb body of singers at the end of a baton.
The choir seems to be able to turn its hand to any style, and it bounced along with Gershwin’s rhythms, providing a large but lithe sound, especially on the ensemble number “Oh, I can’t site down”, which ended with a terrific swell of sound.
The choral singers were also effective when in call-and-response mode, as in “It ain’t necessarily so”.
There were two soloists – up-and-coming young professionals – who adopted a number of roles between them.
Soprano Jennifer Rust opened with the lullaby “Summertime”. Which is so well-established as a relaxed jazz-pop standard that hearing it sung operatically was initially a little disconcerting, but the power of her voice and the emotional intensity of her performance was captivating.
Baritone Steven Griffin had a more relaxed stage presence, combining a musical theatre approach with full-bore operatic singing.
Porgy and Bess was an ambitious collaboration that came off well and the Huddersfield Phil was fully energised not only by the music, but also the presence of such a fine choir in the tiers behind.
The first half of the concert consisted of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The American angle was an obvious link between the two works on the programme, but there are other thematic ties as well.
Both the symphony and the opera are bursting with folk-inspired melody and it was even possible to detect a touch of Dvorak in some of Gershwin’s purely orchestral passages.
The Phil’s performance of the Dvorak had plenty of stand-out moments, many of them provided by brass and wood-wind, but also notable was the exceptional control by the strings when the second movement faded away to almost nothing.