Concert Review: 27th February 2016

Britten: Violin Concerto

Shostakovich: Symphony no 5


Great Hall, Lancaster University, Lancaster

Conductor:  Justin Doyle

Soloist: David Greed   

Leader: Julian Cann

The Haffner Orchestra under their conductor Justin Doyle should be congratulated on their concert at Lancaster University’s Great Hall on Saturday 27th February. It’s great to have a local ensemble putting on such challenging and interesting programmes, to a large and appreciative audience of all ages. Also good to see some very young players among the orchestra.

So I settled into my seat with a warm glow of anticipation until tuning began. Quel horreur! Could the machine hum conflicting with the oboist’s concert A be heard on stage? It didn’t appear to disturb them, but it did me, and I continued to find it disturbing during some of the quieter moments. The University needs to sort this if the hall is to continue as a venue for serious music.

But to the music; Britten’s Violin Concerto was unfamiliar, but the soloist David Greed clearly has a formidable technique and he played with much conviction. There were many beautiful moments, as some very exotic textures were realised well; the passage for tuba and 2 piccolos springs to mind.  The enharmonic key-changes in the last movement were often ravishing, and there were some beautiful soft sonorities from the strings, but the gritty dissonances in louder passages sometimes created problems of intonation. Despite this, a very impressive performance.

Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony is one of the twentieth century’s greatest works, and famous for being the reaction to Stalin’s terror.  This saw the orchestra much more confident, with some exciting sectional playing from wind and horns, especially in the scherzo, and the agonising slow movement was very moving.

The finale has long caused argument; is the endless triumph forced, genuine, or ironic?On this occasion it felt a genuine joyful reconciliation of the conflict and pain of the previous movements, the final percussion notes sealing a totally committed performance. Justin Doyle showed here great rapport with his orchestra, and drew from them one of their best concerts. Long may the partnership continue.


Reviewed by Jeremy Truslove