Music review: The Very Best of Classical Spectacular at the First Direct Arena, Leeds

Classical Spectacular

Classical Spectacular

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A sort of orchestral ‘Pick of the Pops’, Raymond Gubbay’s Classical Spectacular concerts have been packing audiences into the Royal Albert Hall for 25 years.

This one, the first to visit this part of West Yorkshire, featured the combined might of the Orchestra of Opera North and Leeds Festival Chorus, under the exuberant conducting of Jae Alexander.

The programme was brisk and crammed with crowd pleasers from curtain raiser Also Sprach Zarathusa by Richard Strauss to Sousa’s Liberty Bell March and the Grand March from Verdi’s Aida featuring the Fanfare Trumpeters of the Band of the King’s Division.

The sheer power of the choir was exemplified by Orff’s O Fortuna and a robust rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.

A delightful Blue Danube Waltz brought a touch of romance and the mood continued with O soave fanciulla featuring the expressive soprano of Catrin Aur and tenor of Marc Heller.

The orchestral high point of the evening was Ravel’s Bolero, a beautifully textured piece of music that makes full use of percussion, woodwind, strings and brass; Rossini’s William Tell Overture was similarly well performed, full of drama and galloping violins.

The orchestra and chorus combined to good effect in Karl Jenkins’ rather more soothing Benedictus from The Armed Man.

For those that enjoy the flag-waving of the Last Night of the Proms, there were sing-along renditions of Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia, the former featuring enormous Union Jack projections and the latter with Alexander in a bright jacket emblazoned with the flag.

Britain’s Got Talent finalists Richard and Adam Johnson were in strong voice duetting in O sole mio but were rather swamped by the chorus in Jerusalem. Heller’s greater experience and depth of tone showed in a wonderfully controlled Nessun Dorma.

Indoor fireworks, that caused one or two to jump in their seats, brought an explosive finale to Tchaikovsky’s rapturous 1812 Overture.

And the evening played out in giddy style with Jae Alexander high kicking along to the Can-Can and the soloists rejoining the orchestra and Chorus for a reprise of Land of Hope and Glory that sent out an 8,000-strong audience suitably roused into the night.

Concert date: November 30

John Wilson. Picture: Chris Christodoulou

John Wilson swings into Harrogate