Concert Review: 11th November 2017

Ives: The Unanswered Question

Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 'Scottish'


Great Hall, Lancaster University, Lancaster

Conductor: Jonathan Lo

Soloist: Gina McCormack

Leader: Julian Cann


Lancaster’s Haffner Orchestra welcomes its new conductor and provides an evening of imagery, excitement and delight. On 11 November the Great Hall at Lancaster University was filled to capacity, a testament to the Haffner Orchestra’s high reputation.


The concert opened with “The Unanswered Question”, a haunting piece composed in 1906 by Charles Ives. Sustained notes played quietly by the strings were interrupted by the distant and sometimes explosive sounds of trumpet and woodwind emanating from the Great Hall’s gallery. The effect was mesmerizing. But what was the “unanswered question”, the title of the piece? It was left to the listener to decide.


The audience was then treated to a virtuoso performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major played by Gina McCormack. Lyrical passages in the first movement, exuberant speeds in the final movement and a cadenza of breath-taking technicality clearly demonstrated why Gina is one of Britain’s leading violinists. It was a privilege to hear her perform. The orchestra’s well-balanced accompaniment added to the enjoyment.

The concert ended with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3. Inspired by his tour of Scotland and a visit to the ruins at Holyrood Palace, Mendelssohn composed a symphony of tragedy, violence, tranquility and jubilation. These ever-changing moods were expressed with sensitivity and professionalism by all sections of the orchestra. Credit should also go to the new conductor, Jonathan Lo. His evident rapport with the players, together with his experience and musicianship, bodes well for the orchestra’s future.

Reviewed by Ruth MacKenzie