Halle will pull out all the stops

Organist Jonathan Scott
Organist Jonathan Scott

In an age when flashmob performances have become very familiar, it’s harder to be surprised by music performed in unusual locations.

Nevertheless, the idea of a major piece of classical music written originally to be played in a department store still raises an eyebrow.

And on Thursday, November 24, the Hallé will be playing just such a piece when they perform Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra, part of an orchestral spectacular at the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham.

The Belgian-born Jongen was both a gifted composer and virtuoso organist.

His Symphonie Concertante was his greatest masterpiece and was originally commissioned by Rodman Wanamaker for performance in the Grand Court of his Philadelphia department store, Wanamaker’s (now Macy’s).

The setting was suitably impressive as the Grand Court was then home to the world’s largest pipe organ. However, Wanamaker died before the scheduled performance date and it was not until 2008 that the piece was finally performed at its intended venue.

The piece has been described by as ‘probably the ultimate display piece for organ with orchestra’ and one which requires a ‘black belt in organ technique’ to perform. Thankfully, the Hallé have just such a soloist in Jonathan Scott, whose easygoing manner belies the fact that he is a much-garlanded musician with a string of major competition wins to his name.

The rest of the programme is no less colourful, bringing together three of the most brilliant composers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Dukas’s enchanting symphonic poem The Sorcerer’s Apprentice opens the evening while Fauré’s graceful Pavane provides a calm interlude before Respighi’s cinematic Pines of Rom brings a suitably blazing conclusion.

The concert begins at 7.30pm on Thursday, November 24. Tickets are £10-£32 and are available from the box office on 0115 989 5555.

* Jonathan Scott will be performing Messiaen’s L’Ascension in an After Hours concert, 20 minutes after the main performance. There is free admission to Hallé ticket holders, £3 for non-ticket holders.