Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra Blog

Proms rant
August 23, 2008, 3:16 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts

No apologies for using the orchestra’s blog for a personal rant. I am referring here to the newly commissioned works for the 2008 Promenade Concert season. Now I regard myself as being genuinely receptive to new music: I thoroughly enjoyed the works by Stockhausen this year (as did our cat, whose musical tastes must command considerable respect. He purred continuously throughout Stimmung). Stockhausen, and many other 20th-21st century composers, have created a sound world that is interesting, stimulating, challenging and often startlingly beautiful. What a disappointment then to be presented with a litany of pretentiously titled pieces that, in the words of Peter Cooke, ‘lacked everything’. Above all, they lacked interest, sounding as one particular piece did, as though the composer was sitting on a cactus sucking an unripe lemon. Never mind: as my father once said, “the Proms’ audience is the least critical you will ever find. They will applaud anything, even if it hasn’t finished.”

I suppose it is all a quetion of fashion, and I admit that I did not listen to every new work, so I may have missed a masterpiece. But what I heard suggested to me that the commissioners were going for a particular sound palatte. It is a shame that unfashionable composers, even if they are extremely good, don’t get a look-in. Take Christopher Brown, for instance, who recently wrote a piece for our orchestra. He is a craftsman who has steadfastly ploughed his own furrow to create genuinely magical music in a style (simultaneously modern and traditional) that is recognisably his own. He has received commissions world wide from prestigious choirs, orchestras and chamber groups. Nothing from the Proms, of course.

Anyway, still 3 weeks to go and some mouth watering concerts to anticipate. There are some new works, too, and perhaps one will turn out to be a real gem. Then, yet again, I will be looking for that edible hat of mine. Click here to see what’s on this week .



Over and Out
July 6, 2008, 8:42 am
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts, News

With the Botanic Gardens concert behind us, the orchestra can look forward to 6 weeks rest before we kick off again with rehearsals on September 2nd. Full marks to the hardy Sheffield public who braved a (rightly) pessimistic weather forecast to support us and the Rotary Charities last night. Despite conditions more akin to the South Col the loyal revellers stayed on till the end, which was well past 10pm. The organisers are already talking about next year when hopefully global warming will have got back into its stride.

Ewa has one more concert in London before a well earned brake in her native Poland. She has 10 concerts with the Halle next year, so watch her web site for dates and venues which include Wigan, Bradford and the Bridgewater Hall (also linked from this Blog). People may wish to read the revue of her most recent concert in the Bridgewater Hall to get some idea of what is in store!

Keep an eye out for infrequent posts here (to while away the long balmy summer ahead). The SPO wishes that, in the coming weeks, visitors to this Blog will enjoy a few precious moments of relaxation from those pointless treadmills we all seem to have jumped on. (Sorry about the preposition at the end of the sentence).

Finally, I understand that the Botanic Gardens concert was recorded. More information about this will be posted as it emerges.


PS Note change of date for the Christmas concert. Saturday 13th December, not Sunday 14th. There is a straw in the wind suggesting the programme might be built around the theme of ‘trains’. Anyone know any good train music?!

Henryk Czyz
June 2, 2008, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, Uncategorized

Henryk CzyzLearning that our wonderful string section were going to play a piece by Czyz, ( and on the not unreasonable assumption that some people may feel a trifle uninformed about the aforementioned composer) I hastened to glean a few gems for the blog. As usual, Wikipedia is the first stop, but Mr Czyz’s name appears in red (no article). Even Google scores a disappointing number of hits, most of which refer to someone else. So I consult a knowledgeable source who seldom lets one down. “Well” he says “Apart from being the sort of chap you want to get on a triple word score in Scrabble, I can’t tell you much, but it’s his 85th birthday the weekend of the concert”. Great! Fantastic! We’ll invite him over, put him up in the Rutland, have a party. I decide there and then to write the missing Wikipedia article. Progress is slow and so far the article is no more than a ‘stub’ ( ‘Henryk Czyz b Grudziadz 16th June 1923 d Warsaw 16th Jan 2003, (puts paid to the party idea). My puny effort does, however, refer the reader to a more helpful source from which I have extracted much of what follows and who kindly gave us permission to use their picture.

He started as a law student and then changed track and graduated in music aged 29. He studied composition and conducting, initially with the Stanislaw Moniuszko Opera and moving on to most of the prestigious Polish orchestras in turn. He established an international reputation with concerts all over the world. Two recordings deserve special mention, Raj i Peri by Robert Schumann and Krzysztof Penderecki’s St Luke Passion. He was a great champion of modern music, especially by Polish composers. His television programmes were particularly popular in this respect.

He wrote a number of books which our musical director says are wonderful. Sadly, a quick search through Amazon and would suggest that they are currently unavailable and even if you find them, they have not been translated into English (unless he wrote ‘Bistatic Radar Polarimetry – Theory & Principles!). Perhaps some ‘out of print’ translations are available through libraries.

Reading through other articles, I failed to find much more. What there is tells of a very warm, energetic and multi-talented man. A much loved teacher and champion of causes. A broadcaster and author, composer, conductor and politically active Music Union representative.  As the Polish Music Centre puts it “A Renaissance figure”.

He wrote his poignant Canzona di Barocca in 1983 and it was our privilege to give its first Sheffield performance at the Broomhill festival on June 15th.


Afterthought. Looking through the list of Czyz’s publications, I was reminded of the Polish visitor who went to have his eyes checked at SpecSavers. The optometrist indicated the penultimate row on the reading chart     c  z  w  l  b  p  d  j  z   “Can you read that?” she asked. “Of course I can” he replied “He’s my uncle”.

Business post. Newsletter.
June 2, 2008, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Apologies to non-orchestra members visiting the blog, for whom this post is totally irrelevant!

Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra Newsletter






Concert season 2008/2009 – dates for your diary. Please note the change of date: the Christmas concert is now on Satuday, not Sunday.


=        Saturday   8th November, Victoria Hall, Sheffield.


       Verdi – “Nabucco” Overture
 Respighi – Ancient Airs and Dances Suite II
 Berlioz – “Harold in Italy”  Soloist: Robin Ireland

=        Saturday  13 December, Christmas family afternoon concert. St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane.

=        Saturday   21st March, Victoria Hall, Sheffield.

=        Saturday   13th June, Broomhill Festival at St Mark’s Church.


Programme to be confirmed. Watch this space like a hawk.




Thank you if you have already paid your sub. If you haven’t, it would be very helpful if you would give it to Natalie as soon as possible (£25 membership, £10 concessions, £5 students).


Mozart Requiem
March 22, 2008, 2:05 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts, Uncategorized

Visitors to the this blog may be interested in a performance of Mozarts Requiem (by The Escafeld Chorale and the SPO), to be performed in Sheffield on April 12th. Full details can be found on Escafeld’s website :

This is our second association with Escafeld. Ewa will be conducting the Requiem and Escafeld’s musical director, Peter Dutton, will start the concert off with 2 ‘a capella’  (whoops! they were not a capella, but were very nice anyway) pieces.

The history of the Requiem is every bit as devious and fascinating as the totally mythological account in ‘Amadeus’. Wiki gives a reasonable introduction to this extraordinary work I have to admit that some of my favourite bits seem to be those written by Sussmayr, but I suppose Mozart gave him a flying start (for example, the first 8 bars of the Lacrimosa, widely accepted to be the last music Mozart ever wrote).

Performing this work poses special challenges to an amateur orchestra, not least being the orchestration itself. The horns, oboes and flutes get a day off, but not the 3 trombones (alto, tenor and bass), who cop it for a hair raising solo in the Tuba Mirum. And where do you find 2 basset horns? Our clarinet duo were most insistent that we provide them, and they duly arrived this week. Then the orchestra will have to balance with the choir and tune in with the organ.

We confidently expect all these problems to be solved and look forward to a memorable performance, once again in St John’s Church, Ranmoor.

Easter greetings to all.


PS. Another great audience. Thanks to all for coming. See you at the Broomhill festival.

Recent Concert
March 12, 2008, 9:34 am
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts

As work gets under way for Mozart’s Requiem, I think the orchestra can reflect on our recent concert at St Johns with genuine pride. As usual, it’s best to turn to outsiders for criticism, so you may care to visit the following link. Many thanks to Robert Webb at St John’s who helped us so much with this event.

It was by far the biggest audience we have had. Well, actually, that excludes the Botanic Gardens Cocert, oh and the City Hall Giltrap concert and possibly our first Christmas concert as well, but you get the general point. Feedback from the audience was positive and Ewa comments that the performance was full of energy (largely generated by her, of course). One perceptive observation was that though the energy was sustained throughout, the same could not be said about accuracy which faltered towards the end. It was certainly a tough programme to play all afternoon and then repeat in the evening and perhaps people were just getting knackered. It has been suggested that perhaps we could rehearse in the morning, allowing a longer recovery period before the performance. Comments please. (If you belong to another amateur orchestra and have found your way to this blog, please let us know how you cope with this problem; assuming you do find it a problem, of course. Click on ‘comments’ and help us out).

Despite her promotion, Ewa is anxious to keep faith with the SPO and is talking positively about next year’s programme, to include Tchaikowsy 6th in the first concert. Obviously she will have an increased committment to the Halle, but we now have an enviably good pool of guest conductors who can take rehearsals when she is not available and the future looks rosy.

Finally, I understand that the R K Rhapsody Espagnol is not going to feature in the Gardens Concert, but we will do it later in the year. Instead, we might do the whole of the New World Symphony. All of this is to be confirmed.


Girl Power: Eastern European style.
February 22, 2008, 12:12 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts, News

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