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Concert Review: 25th February 2017

Purcell/Britten: Chacony in G minor

Monteverdi/Doyle: Ballo (Il Ballo delle Ingrate)

Elgar: Chanson de Matin

Britten: Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra

Haydn: Cello Concerto no. 1 in C major

Bach/Elgar: Fantasia and Fugue in C minor

Great Hall, Lancaster University, Lancaster

Conductor: Bob Chasey         

Soloist: Leonard Elschenbroich

Leader: Julian Cann

A packed University Great Hall on Saturday night enjoyed an exuberant evening of classical music played by Lancaster’s own orchestra - the Haffner. In their 40th anniversary year, the Haffner’s ability to tackle the most challenging music is reaching new heights under the assured baton of current conductor, Bob Chasey.  

Two of our best-loved twentieth century composers, Elgar and Britten, were the backbone of this inventive programme. Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is far more than an innocent introduction to the various sections of the orchestra, but a theme and variations of the highest originality, demanding a virtuosity which the Haffner took in its stride. In the climactic fugue, whose breath-taking speed is finally interrupted by the familiar theme resounding from the brass in solemn splendour - a moment that never fails to thrill - we heard an orchestra playing with the confidence of forty years accumulated experience. And they’ll be playing the Britten again to 450 lucky children in the Ashton Hall on Tuesday 7th March.

For the budding cellists in the audience, we had the treat of the Haydn concerto in C played by the charismatic young cellist, Leonard Elschenbroich. The concerto, unearthed as recently as 1960, contains all the hallmarks of Haydn’s genius - ingenuity and humour in equal measure. Elschenbroich’s mastery of his instrument and the ease with which he threw off the trickiest of passages belied the taxing demands of the piece and drew ecstatic applause from an entranced audience.  

Two transcriptions of tunes by Purcell and Monteverdi, by Britten and Lancaster’s own Justin Doyle added to the richness of the programme, which was crowned by a little-known orchestration by Elgar of a Bach Fantasia and Fugue. Late in life, Elgar gave himself permission to let the multi-coloured resources of the modern symphony orchestra loose on the inexorable harmonic progressions of Bach.  The result made for an exhilarating conclusion - loud, startling, and immense fun.  The Great Hall audience responded warmly having enjoyed a wonderfully varied evening in very capable hands.

Reviewed by Andy Whitfield


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