Derby Concert Orchestra's Christmas concert this year, with conductor Jonathan Trout - Derby Cathedral, 10 December 2022 - opened with a selection from John Williams' Star Wars music, neatly prefaced by Alfred Newman's 20th-Century Fox Fanfare. (Star Wars is itself a product of 20th-Century Fox studios.) The expressive contrasts of Williams' music, from snarling menace to expansive lyricism, were vividly characterised.
Jack Mason's stop-start selection from Bernstein's West Side Story focuses on the romantic numbers - 'I feel pretty', 'Maria', 'Something's coming', and so on - and almost completely ignores the fight music, giving an unbalanced view of the show. But the performance had plenty of vitality.
Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet was a logical follow-up to West Side Story's re-invention of the Shakespeare play. There was tension moving into the music for the feuding Montagues and Capulets, which nevertheless felt a little restrained at first, needing more bite. The soft string tone gave the love music real atmosphere, though.
Robert Russell Bennett's selection from Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music flowed better than Mason's treatment of West Side Story. In particular, the neat way he dovetails 'The lonely goatherd' into 'Do, re, mi' was deftly handled.
Bob Krogstad's arrangement of music from the score for the classic 2013 Disney feature film Frozen by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, had one or two uncertain moments, but in general it came off well.
By now the evening was beginning to feel a bit samey - a medley too far, perhaps, and Leroy Anderson's A Christmas Festival reinforced the impression. It means well, but tries to cram in too much material. Perhaps it's time to give it a rest for a bit.
Instead of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, as in previous years, the first audience participation number this year was another slice of 1970s pop, Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody. We all joined in, of course, but it didn't quite raise the roof as much as I would have expected.
In fact, compared to previous years, the general atmosphere felt a little subdued. And sorry to say, there is still a tendency for the brass and timpani to overbalance everyone else in loud passages. So, not one of the orchestra's most successful Christmas concerts, sadly, but there were still bright spots to enjoy.
Copyright © 24 December 2022