Review: Hull Philharmonic Orchestra


KCOM knowledgebase analyst Rebecca Harries reviews Hull Philharmonic Orchestra at Hull City Hall (Saturday, February 25) as they performed the world premiere of 6000 Pipes.

6000 Pipes celebrates Hull City Hall and its organ and, unusually, it also features the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra musicians as singers in a Humber-style shanty in honour of the city's trawlermen.

The first thing you notice upon taking your seat at Hull City Hall is its vast organ. Gleaming spectacularly in all its polished brass beauty, the subject of Sir Karl Jenkins’ feature piece is captivating.

Sir Karl visited Hull last summer to research what would become the orchestral wonder that is 6000 Pipes. Widely regarded as one of the most popular living composers in the world, Sir Karl has sold out Hull City Hall with the world premiere of his three-part extravaganza, which was inspired by Hull’s cultural past, its maritime history, and the wild Bee Orchids that grow rife across the undisturbed areas of the city.

Conductor Andrew Penny introduces the opening piece, rouses the audience with a few laughs, and then frightens the life out of us as organist Jonathan Scott strikes his first note.

The first part, The Tivoli Music Hall, pays tribute to Hull between the wars. Harking back to a time of recovery and hope, the full orchestra accompanies the organ, lifting the piece to ethereal heights in an energetic swell of music.

The second of the movements is Bee Orchids - a gentler piece, inspired by the beautiful Bee Orchids that grow in the unlikeliest of places – abandoned industrial sites. The piece is hypnotic in its tranquillity, with some similarities to Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.

All Aboard: Sea Shanty & Hornpipe On The Humber is opened by the organ mimicking a ship’s horn, growing fainter as it sails out to sea. The movement has the unique feature of having the whole orchestra perform the sea shanty written especially for this piece. The piece finishes to a standing ovation, with Sir Karl himself appearing onstage to thank the audience and orchestra.

Ravel’s Concerto in G was performed by an orchestra somewhat thinned out in the brass section, this time with the grand piano taking centre stage. Opening with a jolting crack of the whip, pianist Martin Roscoe is accompanied by swells of strings, beltings of brass, and wunderkinds of wind. The diverse concerto was composed in the late 1920s by French composer Maurice Ravel and premiered in Paris, in January 1932. The movements vary from Basque themes to gentler American-style piano jazz, to a much more rousing finale. Every instrument has its moment in the concerto and all accompany the piano outstandingly.

After the interval, we have Symphony No 3 in C Minor, op 78 Organ Symphony, by Camille Saint-Saens. The opening bars from the organ nearly blast the roof off. An operatic gem, the piece is performed to its absolute best. The piece is probably most recognisable from featuring in the 1995 movie Babe.

The little pig was dismissed as being incapable of pulling off what it intended to do, but through perseverance and hard work, along with a lot of spirit and determination, Babe came out the hero. It’s hard not to draw this comparison to Hull. With its rise to glory thanks to UK City of Culture 2017, our city has silenced the nay-sayers, changed international opinion and, only two months in, has risen triumphantly.

An astonishing evening with the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra; every lucky ticket holder couldn’t fail to be blown away by its performance. It sets an excellent standard for the rest of the Classics programme throughout the year, and this reviewer can’t wait for the next one.

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