Symphony orchestra’s classics-night success

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Halifax Symphony Orchestra

An Evening of French Classics

Halifax Minster

The splendid Halifax Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Simpson gave the audience an interesting programme of enjoyable French classics.

Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, composed in 1843, made for a bright opener. It is a virtuoso ensemble piece, and apart from one or two untidy passages it enabled all sections to exploit its busy orchestration to the full with a good feeling for its capricious style.

The melodious, lyrical Ballet Suite that Gounod wrote for his opera Faust in 1859 was effortlessly tuneful, traditional ballet music in the old style, and one could just imagine the choreography it inspired, a sweet, tender waltz for the first variation, a muscular male solo for the third, an exciting ensemble number for the seventh, brimful of joie de vivre.

Halifax then briefly basked in the exotic sounds, colours and scents of six evocative Occitan Songs from the Auvergne, composed by Canteloube in 1925. Deborah Roussak, substituting for Rosy Williams at very short notice, acquitted herself well though she was outshone by Nicholas Simpson’s own truly inspired –and beautifully played – arrangements of the orchestral accompaniments.

Orchestra leader Barbara Slade impressed in Saint-Saens’ diabolic Danse Macabre of 1874, and organist Chrisopher Brown excelled in Alexandre Guilmant’s showy and emotive Symphony No 1 for Organ and Orchestra, emphatically in harmony with the orchestra one moment and shimmering serenely with the strings the next before thundering away with blaring brass in the Finale.

Julia Anderson