Concert Review: 8th February 2020

Weber: Overture to Oberon

Haydn: Symphony no. 95

Mendelssohn: Symphony no. 5, ‘Reformation’

Ashton Hall, Dalton Square, Lancaster Conductor: Jonathan Lo Leader: Julian Cann


The Haffner’s programme of concerts is an essential part of the rich tapestry that is the live music scene in Lancaster. As Jonathan Lo the fantastic, passionate and supremely encouraging conductor pointed out to us last night, it is a joint venture of listeners and musicians. It is a magical moment in time which makes this art form so exhilarating.

Last night was also tinged with a bit of sadness to hear in the pre-concert talk that this is Jonathan’s last season with the orchestra. His introductions to the pieces are always thought-provoking and full of delight in the music, which makes one eager to listen. His last concert with the orchestra will be on June 20th and if you have never been to a Haffner concert before I would urge you to put this one in your diary.


The concert started with Weber’s Overture to Oberon. The French horn bravely opened the piece with a magic call to the characters from the fairy world of A Midsummer Nights’ Dream. There was a quiet rustling of fairies brought to life by the strings and gradually the full orchestra participated and seemed to thoroughly enjoy a piece full of charm and vitality. The music gave no hint that Weber died of tuberculosis very shortly after the opera was premiered.







Next on the programme was Haydn’s Symphony no.95. We were urged by Jonathan to listen out for the silences and the sense of excitement that the pauses bring, never quite knowing what Haydn will fill the space with next. There was a feeling of fun and exuberance, which the orchestra captured beautifully as the different sections counterpoint and develop the themes. Especially smile-worthy was a brilliant cello solo performed by Mary Dainton. In the third movement. It was great to hear a cello take the centre stage like this and in such a joyful way.


After the interval, we were treated to Symphony no.5 ‘Reformation’ by Mendelssohn. The first quiet and reverential moments with the flute were played beautifully and built to a more intense calling between the brass and woodwind. The strings then joined in and the movement built to a point where the whole orchestra played together to make a great sound until falling away to a quiet end. In the Scherzo and Trio, the orchestra could be seen to sway to the sumptuous three time. They were obviously enjoying it as much as the audience. The Andante began with the strings and was a beautiful quiet reflective sound, although with some overtones of sadness. A solo flute opened the last movement with a hymn from Martin Luther. The stately bassoons and the woodwind were joined by the brass and cellos in a sombre deep sound and gradually the harmony was layered by the full sweep of the orchestra. This was the end of another excellent evening with the Haffner Orchestra and its many supporters.


Siobhan Tough