The Bridgewater Hall
The Hallé’s latest performance in their Thursday Series at the Bridgewater Hall was a varied and interesting one, ranging from Mozart’s 35th ‘Haffner’ symphony to a UK premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Piano Concerto and leading to a performance of the infamous ‘Rite of Spring’ by Stravinsky; the première of which sparked what was possibly the first moshpit in music history.
The Mozart was an intricate, and at times intense, display, although it didn’t hold the same intrigue and exciting quality as the other pieces. With a smaller than normal classical orchestra, the interaction and balance between the instruments was good, with some energetic and vibrant conducting from Ryan Wigglesworth.
The premiere of Turnage’s piano concerto was a complete juxtaposition to the Mozart, with the use of a much wider range of instrumentation and extended techniques. In the first movement for instance, the aggressive ‘snap’ pizzicato of the double basses, with the players plucking the strings so aggressively that they made audible snaps (which explains the name) against the fingerboard. The aggression and chaos of the first movement was brilliantly contrasted by the much slower second movement. It was more conventionally written, with a delicate, sombre melody for the violin and a rich interaction of parts that served to soothe the tension raised in the first movement. Arguably the highlight was the sudden shift into a jazz timbre, providing a really cool surprise and showcasing the skill of solo pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, whose fingers flashed across the keys impressively for the whole concerto.
Following the wild card of the evening was the piece everyone had been waiting for: Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’. Its première in 1913 was as ballet music and is infamous; the choreography of the dancers, combined with the abstract and radically new music, supposedly caused a riot in the Parisian audience.
The subject of the ballet and the music is Pagan Russia, with rituals for the arrival of Spring and the choice of a young female sacrifice. Eventually she dances herself to death, which is an ending to the night that I’m sure we’ve all experienced. The performance was a dramatic and intricate one, with some superb playing by the brass and French horns. The lower strings’ sense of drama and aggression could have been more explicit, however. The opening was original, with the bassoonist expressively playing with the catchy opening melody. The following sense of cohesion might have been lessened by this, but only briefly.
The Hallé put on a swinging pendulum of a show. The amazingly cheap price of £3 tickets for students makes these Thursday series of concerts a no-brainer if you’re a seasoned classical music fan, and a great reason to try it our if you’re not. A show of this standard is certainly a good place to start.