What a partnership it is between the Royal & Derngate and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The band is the resident orchestra for R&D’s annual season of concerts, and this one-off afternoon performance featured the added draw of TV favourite Martin Clunes as its narrator.
Intended to introduce orchestral work to younger people, the programme was beautifully designed, and Clunes added just the right amount of wit and warmth to the stunning playing of the musicians under guest conductor Barry Wordsworth.
Opening with Elgar’s Cockaigne Concert Overture, the performance invited novices and old hands alike to learn about and appreciate the different sections within a symphony orchestra.
Among the classics specifically designed for such a purpose were Prokofiev’s delightful Peter and the Wolf, which uses a variety of instruments to evoke animals through the narrated folk story, and Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, a stunning reworking of a theme by Purcell into a fabulous tour through the sections, with variations and counterpoint building to a breathtaking finale.
But alongside the seasoned classics were lesser-known works such as the charming tale of Tubby the Tuba, whose desperate search for a tune of his own leads him to a starring role in the orchestra.
Rounding off each half of the programme were two movie scores that were as well known to a 21st century youngster as any piece of classical music: the themes from Harry Potter and Star Wars, both by the unsurpassed film composer John Williams.
As a way to send the audience home humming memorable tunes performed by an orchestra at the top of its game, this was intelligent planning, and Wordsworth and his huge ensemble deserved every bit of the rapturous reception they received from a crowd of vast age range.