City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Usher Hall Reopening Gala Concert Review

By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 11 October 2010

Hans Graf
Show Details
The Usher Hall
Houston Symphony Orchestra
Stravinsky, Fireworks; Adams, Doctor Atomic Symphony; Holst, The Planets.
Hans Graf (conductor)
Running time: 

Although the Usher Hall has been in use after renovation for more than a year now, the outside work has only just been completed. This was an appropriate evening, the tenth of the tenth of the tenth, to celebrate with music about the Universe the completion of all the work on our world-class concert hall. The Lord Provost in his regalia was our host.

The focus of the concert was the performance of Holst’s The Planets which took up the second half. Not only did we have the Houston Symphony Orchestra playing with very dimmed lights but a full screen above them to give us a film show. The only speaking came at the beginning when NASA scientists enthused about space exploration.

The Planets is an orchestral suite of seven movements. Why seven and not eight? These are astrological planets which, of course, omit Earth. Each of the seven has a movement and each was featured on the screen to accompany the music. For most of us we were seeing pictures provided by NASA of planets we had never seen before. The music was exciting and, by and large, the film show was calm. It was just a little strange without a voice describing what particular aspect we were viewing; we have become so used to science on television.

The concert began with Stavinsky’s short Fireworks written in 1908. It is a complicated piece written for a large orchestra but just seemed a bit sleepy. There was more life in John Adams’ Doctor Atomic Symphony which is derived from his opera. It was written in 2005 and is about the final preparations for and the build up to the detonation in July 1945 of the world’s first nuclear device at Los Alamos in New Mexico.

Houston Symphony was founded in 1913 and Hans Graf became its Musical Director in 2001. For our concert he appeared to take no chances with his conducting as he followed his score very carefully - more-so than most conductors. It was only at the end of the concert when the level and length of applause merited not one but two different encores that he hardly glanced at the score in front of him.

Event: Sunday, 10 October 2010 7.30pm