Concert Review: 2nd November 2019

Offenbach Overture to La Belle Hélène

Bruch Scottish Fantasy

Sibelius Symphony no. 1


Great Hall, Lancaster University

Conductor: Jonathan Lo

Soloist: Leland Chen

Leader: Julian Cann



We enjoyed a terrific concert by the Haffner Orchestra and their guest soloist, Leland Chen, on Saturday evening.


The first piece, Offenbach’s overture to La Belle Helene, was short and light hearted. The orchestra were playful and tuneful and gave us a good warm up for starters.


We then began in earnest to be mesmerised by the fine and exquisite playing of Leland Chen in Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. The piece begins slowly, giving us a chance to fully appreciate the beautiful tone and intensity that Chen brought to the piece. The orchestra buoyed him up beautifully with lovely chords and in places musical conversations between the sections and soloist. The quicker movements were also joyous and brilliantly executed. The harp was also lovely to hear and seemed appropriate because, as the title suggests, the Fantasy pays homage to some great Scottish traditional tunes. These were sometimes poignant and heartfelt and sometimes just fun. Chen was warmly applauded by the audience and performed a short, quirky, technically inspiring encore.


During the interval we encountered some members of the orchestra, who mentioned what a challenging piece Sibelius First Symphony is to play, as they prepared themselves for the second half. They needn’t have worried. This was the absolute highlight of the concert.


The fantastic and completely lovable conductor Jonathan Lo gave us a short introduction, which made us wish we had attended the earlier pre performance talk (although we had used this time to catch a bit of the brilliant Light Up Lancaster festival). Our senses I’m sure became keener as he described Sibelius bridging both classical symphony and tone poem in this wonderful piece.

Every part of the orchestra gave themselves fully and had moments of glory. The music soared and subsided as themes and motifs were interwoven amongst the different players. The energy and rhythmic vitality required at some points were matched by the feelings expressed at quieter more introspective moments. What a fantastic performance. We were transported to Finland and absolutely loved it.


Siobhan Tough