- December 2, 2019
There was so much to enjoy in this programme, particularly two of the most loved works in the concert repertoire: Vaughan Williams’ ever popular ‘The Lark Ascending’ and Mozart’s ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik’, possibly the first German phrase many British children learn. They certainly attracted some excited youngsters into the Dome, an audience for the future, who listened spellbound. However, the first day of Winter called for something lively, comforting or brilliant to open the proceedings and warm up the audience. Haydn’s beautiful but sombre Symphony 49 ‘La Passione’ was too austere, being appropriate for Holy Week and Passiontide. Its long and alas mechanically relentless Adagio first movement, combined with an uncoordinated wind section, did not start the afternoon well.
Fortunately the addition of a harp lifted the mood for Vaughan Williams’ Five Variants of “Dives and Lazarus”. Although it’s another deeply meditative work, based on a solemn hymn tune, the Philharmonic strings endowed it with a much warmer tone.
‘The Lark Ascending’ too is essentially contemplative, however many notes the soloist may have to play. Thomas Gould played exquisitely, but often against a loud, uncooperative French Horn and a barracking of coughs from a restive audience. He succeeded, however, in delivering a most tender, soulful climax and that moment of heart-stopping silence, which broke into a well-deserved thunder of applause.
The Mozart began the second half well enough but Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ Symphony, also in gloomy F Sharp Minor, was lack-lustre. That is until the very end, when Papa Haydn’s classic joke still worked its magic as the various sections upped and left the platform. By the time the stage lights had dimmed and conductor herself strode off, the audience was laughing out loud. In tight spot-lighting, the few remaining strings then played out the final bars, to splendid dramatic effect.
Dome Concert Hall,
1 December 2019