The Hallé, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, 27th November 2013

(My first attempt at reviewing a concert. NB my musical knowledge goes as far as Grade 5 theory and an AS Level. So relatively limited.)

With a highly varied programme of classical gems and a live broadcast on BBC Radio Three, the Hallé’s flying visit to Nottingham was certainly not to be missed. Indeed, the anticipation was tangible as a practically full house applauded conductor Markus Stenz taking his position at centre stage.

The very slightly hiccupping slow introduction to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in which a couple of the entries were fractionally dis-coordinated was more than made up for by the subsequent refreshing, fast paced and throughly enjoyable four movements. The orchestra made fantastic use of dynamics allowing for a high degree of expression; this was particularly effective in the second and fourth movements. My only criticism would be that the third movement was a little fast for my taste; however, it was supremely accurate and well executed (perhaps I could do with broadening my horizons to embrace the pace.)

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, characterised by its long trills, revealed Lars Vogt as a clear master of his instrument. This piece is particularly enjoyable for its juxtaposition of two, fairly rapid major movements with a more sombre minor one sandwiched between. This piece is charming both for its call and response texture and for the points at which strings and solo instrument blended together – something the Hallé did flawlessly not just in the Mozart, but throughout the programme.

The second half accelerated dramatically into the latter end of the Romantic period with much expanded brass and percussion sections and two highly animated pieces by Strauss, Don Juan and Til Eugenspiegels Lustige Streiche. These two pieces have clear narratives, which was reflected in how gloriously varied they were in their instrumentation, range of dynamics, melody lines (particularly in the bold and deliberate brass) and contrapuntal texture; it had us on the edge of our seats. Just before the end of the latter of the aforementioned pieces, the finale, there is a wonderful interlude in the strings which seemed to reinstate the contrast between the two halves of the programme and demonstrate how the use of the strings in the orchestra developed through time.

A tremendously thoughtful programme which was thoroughly entertaining, hugely varied and supremely well played. I highly recommend listening again on iPlayer!


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