The Haffner’s November concert was sold out. The audience packed into the University’s Great Hall anticipating an exciting performance of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano concerto and Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony from the Haffner with their new musical director Alex Robinson, and veteran pianist Martin Roscoe. A pre-concert talk from Roscoe and Robinson set things up nicely, with both men giving interesting details about how they came to have their respective careers
There was no overture, so we went straight into the Rachmaninoff. The concerto starts with ominous opening chords from the soloist, and Roscoe opted for a more strident approach than some I’ve heard, building up to what turned out to be quite a restrained tempo once the orchestra came in
One feature of Rachmaminoff’s writing is a “big” string sound, and the Haffner were definitely up to the challenge.
After the interval, Alex gave a brief but useful introduction to the Sibelius. After the string introduction to the Sibelius, the oboes coped well with their thrust into the limelight, setting up our journey into the Finnish landscape.
All Sibelius symphonies have a lot going on, and I thought Alex did a good job of steering the ship through some of the thornier passages, especially in parts like the section of the 1st movement where the strings sound like they’re fighting through a thick forest. There were some exciting moments for the brass too.
As always, it was an enjoyable evening with the Haffner. I think they’re in good hands with their new Musical Director Alex, and I look forward to seeing him guide the orchestra to new heights!