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Rapt and Radiant

Sarah Connolly, The Hallé Orchestra
and Mark Elder visit Derby,
and MIKE WHEELER was in the audience


It's good to see Dvorák's Sixth Symphony getting the attention it has long deserved but hasn't always received. It was the main work in the Hallé Orchestra's mostly Czech programme launching the 2007-8 season at Derby's Assembly Rooms (Derby, UK, 12 September 2007). It got a spirited, though not always completely polished, performance from the Hallé and conductor Mark Elder who, unusually, observed the first movement repeat (where most conductors take Dvorák's insistence on not doing so at face value). There was a warmth and affection in the performance that came across particularly in the second movement, with the brief stormy outburst in the middle not over-dramatised. The scherzo had tremendous drive and energy, with a wonderfully limpid account of the trio section. The start of the finale sounded unexpectedly easy-going, but there was a strong sense of growing excitement as the movement proceeded.

In the first half Sarah Connolly joined the orchestra for Mahler's Rückert Lieder. This was Mahler singing of a very high order -- warm and ardent in 'Liebst du um Schönheit', with just the right hint of playfulness in 'Blicke dir nicht in die Lieder', and a touchingly serene simplicity in 'Ich atmet' eine Lindenduft'. The soulful intensity from both singer and orchestra in 'Um Mitternacht' highlighted its kinship with the Nietzsche setting in Mahler's Third Symphony. I'm not sure the chosen order was completely satisfactory; 'Um Mitternacht' and 'Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen' need one of the smaller-scale songs in between. But ending with 'Ich bin der Welt ...' was definitely right. Especially in a performance as breathtakingly rapt and radiant as this, none of the others could possibly follow it.

Vigorous, exuberant accounts of the Overture, Polka and Furiant from Smetana's The Bartered Bride opened the concert. And the Dance of the Comedians? Saved to make a very effective encore.

Copyright © 14 September 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK




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