Ben Hulme, Principal Horn of the BBC Philharmonic, joins the Northern Chamber Orchestra for a concert including Richard Strauss’ First Horn Concerto at The Stoller Hall on 24 April.
Born and raised in Manchester, Ben Hulme studied at Chetham’s School of Music, and latterly as a Sir Elton John Scholar at the Royal Academy of Music. It was while still an undergraduate in London that he was offered the principal job at the BBC Philharmonic – a pretty remarkable achievement, even more so considering he’s also a founding member of the London Metropolitan Brass Quintet, a Director of Music at St Mark’s Hamilton Terrace, and an in-demand soloist with orchestras all over the UK.
Together with the Northern Chamber Orchestra – the oldest professional chamber ensemble in the North West – he’ll perform Richard Strauss’ Horn Concerto No. 1, penned by the German composer when he was just a teenager. At such an early age, Strauss already displays a remarkable mastery for the instrument’s possibilities, with one foot in classic structure and the other in romantic lyricism. This must be due, at least in part, to his father being a horn virtuoso, and the Principal Horn of the Munich Court Orchestra. Aptly, Strauss’ First Horn Concerto was written as an ode to his father, on his 60th birthday.
Before the concerto, we’ll hear Waltz: Wine, women and song by Johann Strauss II – one of the Viennese composer’s finest waltzes, featuring his most substantial and impressive introduction. A particular favourite with Richard Wagner, it’s a majestic and uplifting work – and a great opener. Next comes Welsh composer Adrienne Spilsbury’s Eyebright (2019), inspired by visits to wildflower meadows in Cheshire, which led to reflections on our inter-connections with the natural world. Written for 12 solo strings, the piece contains some beautifully atmospheric writing – very much in the great English string tradition.
To close, it’s Mendelssohn’s exhilarating Symphony No. 4, named the Italian Symphony because it was intended to evoke the sights and sounds of Italy. It’s another early offering – Mendelssohn was only 22 when he wrote it – and another that displays precocious mastery. Its final movement in particular, which draws heavily on Italian folk music, is regarded among the most strongly dramatic music the composer ever penned – a wild, swirling, energetic composition that promises a thrilling conclusion to this Stoller Hall concert.
The concert forms part of the Northern Chamber Orchestra’s stunning 2021-22 season, which sees performances across the North West, including a night with Australian guitarist, Craig Ogden on 22 May.