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Concert Review: 5th March 2022

Great Hall, Lancaster University, 7:30 pm

Conductor: Daniel Parkinson

Soloist: Rose McLachlan

Leader: Julian Cann

Vaughan Williams: Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus

Ravel: Piano Concerto in G

Beethoven: Symphony No 6 ‘Pastoral’

Lancaster‘s own Haffner Orchestra welcomed guest conductor Daniel Parkinson and piano soloist Rose McLachlan to their first concert of the year in the University Great Hall. A near capacity audience gathered for a musical journey taking us from rustic folk melody through the bustle of jazz age Paris then back to nature with Beethoven's walk in the woods, his Pastoral symphony.

Without delay conductor Parkinson led the orchestra into Ralph Vaughan Williams' Five Variations on Dives and Lazarus. Warm strings and delicate harp notes state the familiar theme which develops and diverts always returning to its source.

A musical whip crack transports us to a very different environment as boisterous sounds spring from all corners of the orchestra. Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major is rooted in the composer's fascination with jazz and the Basque inflections inherited from his mother. Following the opening fanfares and gambols a bluesy clarinet leads to an unaccompanied statement of the main theme by the soloist. Twenty-one-year-old Rose McLachlan was personally chosen by Daniel Parkinson who, in his youth, had been taught by her father. Her assured, wonderfully expressive playing shone in the flowing phrases of the slow second movement. The final movement awakens us with squalls and shrieks of city sound from woodwind and brass, the hectic whole skilfully supported by the orchestra.

After the interval we returned to the countryside with Beethoven's Sixth Symphony. The enjoyment that the musicians clearly felt in its playing was infectious. All sections take their turns playing the melody. In the second movement the strings evoke flowing water, before we heard bird song played by oboe, flute and clarinets.

The remaining three movements run together without pause. The scherzo of the third movement portrays country folk dancing, the tempo ever increasing. Their revels are interrupted by an approaching storm, the cellos and basses prelude to the mighty thunder of the timpani and the contrast of the piccolo depicting lightning. Trombones add to the rumble before the flute signals the rainbow at the storm's end. Serenity is restored in the final movement, described by Beethoven as A Shepherd's Song of Thanksgiving, an appropriate close to a thoroughly enjoyable evening of music.

Hearing and seeing orchestral music played live by skilled and committed local musicians is truly an experience not to be missed.

Mark Wildman


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