One Nation at the Hallé
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, England
“If you go down in the woods today you better not go alone…”
When Sibelius wrote his violin concerto, his native Finland, though part of the Russia’s realm, would soon break free. On 18 September, a part of our own kingdom voted, on whether to go it alone. The Hallé Orchestra, opening her new season on that same fateful day, played composers from that other empire. The programme included the Finn, proud patriot and emblem of his own independent country. Was there a message here for the UK, upon referendum day?
The concert’s artistic highlight was Danish-Israeli violinist Nicolaj Znaider’s scintillating Sibelius. (He is also St Petersburg’s Principal Guest Conductor at Gergiev’s Mariinsky, and that brings extra insight to his virtuosity as soloist. ) The concerto began with the Halle’s strings, pulsating pianissimo, as Znaider poured forth his soul, with hauntingly beautiful lyricism. Alternating Nordic nostalgia, with trilling his heart out like a bird of paradise, Znaider and violin merged into one. This famous fiddle, Fritz Kreisler’s own Guarneri del Gesu, sparkled with the same sweetness of tone, with which Kreisler himself still enchants us today, even from the grave.
The opening of the third movement is known as a polonaise for polar bears. Mr Znaider, over 6 foot tall, with thick hair and forceful frame, was born for this movement. He tore into it with joy – dancing and swinging towards the orchestra. At the end, to the audience’s delight, Znaider and the conductor celebrated with a warm ursine hug.
The conductor, Finnish Radio’s Hannu Lintu, masterfully painted Sibelius’ famous Finnish storms and bleak landscapes. He also deployed all the colours in the Hallé’s rich palate, in Prokofiev’s Cinderella ballet and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, concluding with a mighty majestic Great Gate of Kiev, once Russia’s capital. The orchestra, thunderous, all together, took the roof off the Bridgewater Hall !
What a wonderful stirring message from the Hallé in this ending to begin the new year – the formidable force that we are as One Nation.
(The full concert can be heard at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04hvrql )
Violinist Nicolaj Znaider; Conductor Hannu Lintu;
Halle Orchestra credit: Russell Hart
Copyright Rosemarine 2014