Thursday, June 3, 2021

Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Broadcast on Thursday, July 15, at 7.30 p.m.

The Hallé’s first concert with an audience (socially-distanced and mask-wearing, no doubt) since Lockdown was imposed all those months ago and relayed as a recording by Radio 3. (It took a while to find the concert’s date! R3’s website and presentation being of no help, save for “recorded last month”.)

It was wholly appropriate that the orchestra’s longstanding music director Sir Mark Elder should be on the podium, leading off with an affable account of the Overture to Glinka’s opera Ruslan and Ludmilla. More Russian theatre followed, Stravinsky’s ballet-score for Petrushka (the 1947 version; fewer players required than for 1911), an impressionistic reading of instrumental clarity rather than greasepaint-rich graphic reality – numerous musical virtues though – a bedtime story without the threat of nightmares.

There was no interval during the concert, respected by R3, and so it was straight into Elgar’s Enigma Variations, a beautifully judged performance glowing with experience and humanity, the music savoured. ‘Nimrod’ was spacious and deeply eloquent yet not indulged and also free of extraneous associations, while the final portrait – the ‘self’ of Elgar – had the moustache-twirling swagger of a country squire (“I say, you there”) growing into a touching heart-on-sleeve denouement, with organ.