Thursday, November 25, 2021

Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

This is the sort of unhackneyed programming – avoiding the usual suspects (yet each choice here is a masterpiece) – that can make concerts such a pleasure, thinking beyond the obvious.

Just returned from Bergen and the Queen Sonja Competition,, Sir Mark Elder opened this Hallé evening with Josef Suk’s substantial Fantastic Scherzo, a wonderful piece that sports a sumptuous and noble melody that stays long in the memory, conducted with affection, and elsewhere Elder and his fired-up players caught well the music’s rustic vitality, dynamism, urbane charm and warm-heartedness, woodwinds beguiling, strings soulful, brass nimble.

(As a postscript, Suk’s music has been doing well of late. Helsinki/Slatkin:; Berlin/Petrenko:

Later in the concert, Paul Dukas’s Goethe-inspired The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was given a graphic outing – brooms, water, floods … not forgetting Disney’s Fantasia and Mickey Mouse – atmospheric, witty, iridescent, dramatic, and a success from its premiere onwards, or to quote Elder: “it made a big splash.” (Dukas’s Symphony in C one day, sir?) To close, Janáček’s Sinfonietta, with its extra brass, given with swagger and spikiness, evocation, and a musical resolve. Trumpets and hard-edge timpani were stirring.

Before the interval, Rachmaninov’s Fourth Piano Concerto (in its final revision), more-compact and leaner-sounding than its predecessors if no less expressive, impassioned and brilliantly scored, piano and orchestra as one. Boris Giltburg was in super form – striding, scintillating, reflecting – backed to the hilt by Elder who ensured detail was vivid and pristine, climaxes made powerfully inevitable, delivered with generosity. Tender expression in the slow movement, darker thoughts midway, and plenty of pizzazz in the Finale – chase music – Giltburg’s fingers working overtime, the Hallé trusty confreres throughout and sharing victory as the finishing post was reached. For an encore, the A-minor second number of Rachmaninov’s Opus 39 Études-Tableaux, two hands weaving counterpoint to create a complex web of poetry, Giltburg the epitome of poise.