Review: The Halle scores a hit with rarely played Irish elegy

The Halle, Warwick Arts Centre, November 8

The Halle Orchestra from Manchester is a regular visitor to the Arts Centre and usually enjoys a sizeable audience.

This visit was no exception, despite numerous bonfire parties on Saturday, particularly just down the road at Kenilworth.

The Butterworth Hall audience, who had endured the long running roadworks around the university to get there, sat back to savour some wonderful music.

Conductor Sir Mark Elder is a veteran but inspires his musicians, including many young members, to reach the heights of performance.

It was Remembrance weekend but the first piece of the evening, In Memoriam (1916) by Arnold Bax was not composed in memory of British servicemen. As Sir Mark explained, it was written as a tribute to Irish Nationalist leaders who were executed after the Easter Uprising in 1916 and, because of political sensitivity, this was only the fifth time it has been heard in concert.

It turned out to be an excellent opening, combining a warm overall feeling with a sense of anger in the middle part to reflect Bax’s disgust at the executions.

A contrasting piece of music from the same period followed, Sibelius’ Symphony No 5 in E flat major in which the composer shows his love of nature. It gave the horns and trumpets in the orchestra plenty of chances to excel and won a deserved reception from the audience.

There was a similar bucolic theme after the interval as the orchestra played Dvorak’s Symphony No 8 in G Major, a joyful celebration of the Bohemian countryside. With the need to achieve sweet birdsong, the flautists Katherine Baker and Joanne Boddington came to the fore. The whole orchestra then built up to an exciting climax which resulted in a lengthy foot stamping acclamation from the audience at the end.

Rating 9/10

Peter Gawthorpe