The night town residents met a resident orchestra
PUBLISHED: 15:22 02 October 2019
The London Philharmonic Orchestra performed their first concert as resident orchestra at Saffron Hall on September 28.
The night enjoyed a full venue and an opening speech from Angela Dixon, Saffron Hall's chief executive, in which she highlighted the hall's 'community' and 'excellence' focus.
She then introduced Vladimir Jurowski, a Russian conductor appreciated worldwide. He said: "It's a great pleasure to share our work with the East of England. You have a world-class concert hall, I am not sure you are aware of it. As much as we love performing abroad, it's great to know that there are fantastic halls in this country.
"This programme shows the link between Russia and Britain. They [the musical compositions] are written for a small venue but I am sure it will sound as glorious. It shows that Russian music does not exist on its own."
Before opening the night, he warned the public that 'Tchaikovsky's third movement is applauded whether it's played well or not', which stirred laughter, followed by another round of amusement at his promise: "I can guarantee that the effect of the fourth movement, if you don't clap and keep silent whether we play well or not, will be truly staggering."
The night started with English-Russian hybrid 'Scriabin Settings' by Oliver Knussen which, with no established melody line, seemed hard to catch the public's attention. However, every new musical intervention was a surprise.
The performance of Benjamin Britten's 'Violin Concerto' was joined by one of the world's leading violinists: German-Slovakian Julia Fischer. She played very passionately but could have perhaps emotionally immersed her audience much more - although the repertoire has arguably not given her much to 'play' with from an emotional perspective. She continuously moved from left to right with the music, in what almost seemed like a duel with the rest of the orchestra. One of Julia's violin bow hairs broke simultaneously with a prolonged fortissimo. This was followed by a fortississimo intensified by percussion and then a pianissimo from the violinist's part with complete silence from the orchestra. She performed a long solo in which the trumpets intervened eventually, followed by strings.
The violin managed a 'piano' which made the secondary violins remarkable through their background pianissimo. Someone shouted 'bravo' as soon as the last sound vanished with another voice cheering before prolonged clapping and feet stomping erupted in unison.
The second half of the programme was the highlight of the night, with Tchaikovsky's final, 'Pathetique' symphony premiered just over a week before his death. It was by far the most melodic performance of the evening. The orchestra's synchronisation, engagement and passion were most remarkable, as they appeared to be a family united by sound. Trumpets were the loudest and most notable here. Wind instruments were interrupted at some point by a sea of string instruments, with the flute creating a reverie atmosphere. The second part of the symphony brought a waltz atmosphere interlaced with playful trills. In the third part, the clarinet alternated with the strings in a constant dialogue followed by a triumphal march atmosphere which the oboe, trumpets and percussion contributed to. The audience resisted the temptation of clapping before the last part started and it was worth it: the 'adagio lamentoso' culminated in a rather dramatic vivace. An electric sound from percussion added an interesting twist to the performance. Perhaps what represented the climax of dramatism was the ending, with the double bass strings plucking. Upon the conductor's return to the stage, the public started stomping their feet yet again. The third time the conductor came back to the stage due to continuous applause, he directed the musicians, this time in a different way: they stood up in groups, taking turns at being applauded, with the majority of players (strings) coming last. As the applause did not show any sign of stopping, the conductor came to the stage for the fourth time, without an encore to close the evening.
The night showcased not only a world-class concert hall, but also a world-class orchestra, lead violinist and conductor, capable of playing a difficult repertoire with outstanding technique.