The latest concert in the Hallé Thursday series was a varied and interesting one, with a broad scope of Romantic, emotionally-charged music. Arguably, the concert was watered down a little from the usual programme due to the presence of four classes from different primary schools as part of the Hallé’s initiative to cultivate interest in classical music in young children. Despite seemingly enjoying the music at the beginning, by the end of Beethoven, fidgeting was at a summer-holiday-6-hour-car-journey high.
Despite these (forgivable) distractions, the conducting of Nicholas Collon was energetic, demonstrating good control of the orchestra and keeping a laudable balance of sound throughout the whole concert, especially impressive when adding the solo playing of Jian Wang’s cello into the mix. His springy and spirited conducting was only outdone in vigour by the waving arms of the primary school kids.
Strauss’s ‘Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks’ was first up, a tone poem chronicling the adventures of the cheeky trickster Till Eulenspiegel (ironically appropriate considering the unusual presence in the audience). This was very well balanced, with the orchestra producing a resonant, warm tone.
Following this was Saint-Saen’s ‘Cello Concerto No.1’ featuring the solo cello of Jian Wang. Wang’s presence was immediately felt, despite his small stature, with amazingly intricate, technically expert playing. This initial surprise was then surpassed with the depth of feeling in the second subject, showcasing Wang’s true range, from melodically animated to emotionally resonant. This continued on into Dvorak’s ‘Silent Woods,’ which served as another showcase of Jian Wang’s expert solo playing, and Nicholas Collon’s control over the orchestra with a constantly appropriate balance.
Following the interval was the main event, the longest piece of the night, Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No.7’. Premiered in Vienna at a charity concert for soldiers in December 1813 with Beethoven himself conducting, the second movement was encored immediately at the time and still maintains its impact today. It was definitely the highlight of the work, building in intensity and emotion. The entire symphony was played beautifully, demonstrating once again the quality of the Hallé.
My only criticism is that there wasn’t more.