Recorded on November 26 in Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, without an audience, this Hallé opener is now available, as of midday today. I have been sent a preview link to the film.
To open, Sir Mark (this orchestra’s long-serving music director) conducts the premiere of Huw Watkins’s Fanfare for the Hallé, for brass ensemble, a twittering machine of a piece that becomes more sonorous. Then there’s music from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – a deeply expressive Prelude to Act III, an elfin-like ‘Dance of the Apprentices’, and a majestic/uplifting account of the Prelude to the whole opera.
Finally, Brahms’s First Symphony, the Hallé’s strings reduced, four basses – for Covid reasons of course but also reflecting Elder’s artistic decision to let woodwinds be an equal voice. How well-aligned his tempos for the introduction (flowing) and the main Allegro (deliberate – exposition repeat not observed, convincingly; that said, Elder took it last time I heard him do Brahms 1, with Britten Sinfonia), the music then developing with purpose. The slow movement is intense and eloquently turned (characterful woodwinds, and fine solos from principal horn and concertmaster Eva Thorarinsdottir) and the intermezzo-like third is gracefully milked for all its poeticism. The Finale is given on a grand scale, with determination as well as elasticity leading to a stirring conclusion – triumph over adversity, Brahms’s and ours.
Good sound (Stephen Portnoi) and picture – this is a pay per view production that is worth catching.