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Peak Form

Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra
a joy to hear


The 2007-8 concert season at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall (Nottingham UK, Saturday 24 May 2008) ended on a high, with the Hallé Orchestra and Mark Elder on absolute peak form. Strauss' Don Juan opened with a blistering adrenalin rush, while the central love-scene got passionate, silky-smooth playing. The horn theme that follows was slightly hesitant at first, but this sounded like a deliberate interpretative decision, suggesting a Don Juan genuinely torn between real feelings and urge to new adventures; it certainly rang out loud and clear on its re-statement, while there was a real headlong feel to the carnival scene.

Bartók's 2nd Piano Concerto got a crisp, incisive performance from both orchestra and soloist, András Schiff. The strings' night music in the outer sections of the second movement was magically atmospheric (did Bartók ever come across Ives' Central Park in the dark, I wonder?). The helter-skelter rhythms of the finale were viscerally exciting, with every intricate detail of the interaction between soloist and orchestra meshing beautifully.

The same level of vitality marked the performance of Dvorák's 6th Symphony after the interval. The ebb and flow of tension in the first movement was subtly controlled, the final pages positively bursting with rude good health and exuberance. There was a lovely warm glow over the second movement's nature music, while the central dramatic episode was strongly characterised without being allowed to overbalance the movement as a whole.

Throughout the evening the orchestral playing matched expressive brilliance with technical finesse as fine as I have ever heard from this orchestra (or any, come to that). In particular, the strings' nimble articulation in the swift fugato section towards the end of the finale of the Dvorák was a joy to hear.

Copyright © 2 June 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK




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