I was slightly apprehensive at the start of the Haffner’s concert on June 24th, not for the orchestra’s sake, but for the fact that my 8-year old nephew was experiencing his first orchestral concert next to me. I needn’t have worried though because the varied programme and vibrant playing had him tapping his toes, and even inspired him to write his own review, which I may occasionally quote from in mine!
The orchestra was conducted this time by Lauren Wasynczuk, a talented (and very busy) American conductor who I understand developed a strong rapport with the orchestra during her short time with them. It was really good to hear her speak to introduce herself, the music, and the soloist after the Prokofiev, a nice little touch I feel a lot of conductors miss!
The programme grounded itself firmly in the classical tradition, starting with Prokofiev’s take on the period, his 1st Symphony, nicknamed the “Classical”. The Haffner gave a fine performance of this perennial favourite, coping well with the exposed start where the 1st violins are thrust into the limelight, and holding it together (just about!) for the breakneck finish. The 2nd movement was particularly beautiful, with its sweet high string sound.
Next, Lauren introduced the soloist Lizzy Russell, making her debut to play Mozart’s Oboe Concerto. I always feel Mozart has a particular affinity with this instrument, perhaps because its singing quality fits his operatic style, and Lizzy definitely demonstrated that in her playing, particularly in the more lyrical moments in for example the slow movement. There was plenty of humour in evidence as well, with all those cheeky sudden stops in the last movement, before the soloist brings the music back to life. As Oliver noted “I’ve never seen such scill (sic) and talent”!
After the interval, the orchestra played Haydn’s last symphony, number 104, with great gusto. From start to finish they were clearly enjoying themselves, and the symphony’s at times quite “rustic” feel was very evident, especially in the last movement, where they really let their hair down. The symphony also provided a good opportunity once again for the Haffner to demonstrate a really big orchestral sound (or, to quote Oliver “it was very loud, and some of it was very tense”), which I’m always impressed by when I attend their concerts.
Andrew McCafferty 30.6.23