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A Geordie Knees-Up

John Wilson conducts the Hallé Orchestra,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Conductor John Wilson has been carving out a particular niche at the lighter end of the British orchestral repertoire, but as his concert with the Hallé Orchestra showed (Assembly Rooms, Derby, UK, 27 March 2008), he can give a good account of himself in more heavyweight pieces as well.

Elgar's Cockaigne, while perhaps not quite as vivid as some performances I've heard, still had a fine balance between perky ebullience and gentle rumination. The performance of Bax's Tintagel, that ended the first half, was particularly strong in the turbulent middle section.

Vaughan Williams' English Folk Songs, beginning the second half, was not quite a rumbustious as it could have been. The stand-out orchestral performance of the evening was a compelling, atmospheric account of Delius' The Walk to the Paradise Garden.

But I suspect the main draw for many of the audience was the appearance of baritone Thomas Allen. After thoughtful performances of Britten's arrangement of 'The Salley Gardens' and John Wilson's of 'The Last Rose of Summer', it was time for a bit of a Geordie knees-up (singer and conductor are both natives of the North-East), with David Haslam's witty arrangements of 'Show me the Way to Wallington' and 'Dance to Thee Daddy'. Allen was back in the second half, commendably refusing either to patronise or over-sentimentalise songs by Eric Coates and Haydn Wood.

John Wilson
John Wilson

Coates in more familiar orchestral guise ended the advertised part of the evening, with 'Knightsbridge' from his London Suite, and a welcome chance to hear one of Elgar's less familiar Pomp and Circumstance marches -- No 5 -- provided an apt encore.

Copyright © 31 March 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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