tue 16/07/2024

Marwood, Hallé, Adès, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - winning way with new music | reviews, news & interviews

Marwood, Hallé, Adès, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - winning way with new music

Marwood, Hallé, Adès, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - winning way with new music

By the end there was shouted approval for the new artist-in-residence

Maestro: Thomas Adès with the Hallé Alex Burns, the Hallé

Thomas Adès had a job to do in his first concert with the Hallé since being appointed Artist-in-Residence for the next two years: to win over the audience that came to witness it.

It wasn’t a sell-out (anything that smacks of new music is unlikely to draw a huge number to the Bridgewater Hall, no matter what sweeteners are provided), but for those who were there he definitely succeeded, and by the end they were shouting their approval.

That was due particularly as appreciation of his ability as a conductor pure and simple, as he finished the programme with Janáček’s Sinfonietta, that uplifting celebration of freedom and optimism, with its 13 extra brass players sounding out over the heads of a full symphony orchestra. We last heard the piece in this hall only a few weeks ago, as John Storgårds began the BBC Philharmonic’s autumn season, and in the inevitable comparison the Hallé under Adès come out extremely well.

Conducting it entirely from memory, he gave them some energetic, striding speeds and they responded to his inspiring vision. It was resonant, skilfully balanced with contrapuntal textures clear, thrilling in its high points, passionate and fervent in its slow movement. Roberto Ruisi led the Hallé strings in exciting and lyrical playing in the Allegretto, and the finale built its tension, through moments of great beauty from the woodwind, to the splendours of the brassy conclusion. As evidence of Adès’ gifts as interpreter and orchestra maestro, this was strong indeed.

He is much more than a conductor, though – “artist-in-residence”, rather than principal guest conductor, makes the point. In three of the five items on the programme, he was bringing his own music, and recent music, too – one piece a UK premiere, one a UK premiere as a concert piece, and one barely two years old.

The first, itself a fanfare for 14 trumpets called Tower (For Frank Gehry) and written to celebrate the opening of a massively imposing arts building designed by the celebrated architect for Arles in southern France, is brief enough, at two-and-a-half-minutes, but makes its own massive effect with ingenious imitative lines atop a crunching carillon-type repeated block chord figure.

Anthony Marwood with the Halle conducted by Thomas AdesThe second piece of Adès writing is a re-working for violin and small orchestra of Märchentänze (Fairytale Dances), which he originally wrote for violin and piano. The ever-youthful Anthony Marwood (pictured) was the soloist in the four movements based on British folk tunes: in the first giving us a very folky bit of fiddling, in brief phrases and regular rhythmic patterns allied with a highly inventive orchestral palette. The second is a complete contrast, gentle and mysterious and featuring oboe and clarinet as duettists with the solo violin over ethereal string and harp accompaniment; the third, called A Skylark (for Jane), offers a rapid build-up of overlapping free-rhythm melodic lines – an “exaltation” of skylarks, as we are told, all in flight together – and the fourth brings us back to dancing, of a wild and even chaotic kind – certainly an invigorating one.

The big piece of the evening – for sheer numbers on the platform – was Purgatorio from Adès’ ballet, Dante, which was premiered by the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden in 2021 and first performed in the USA at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA in 2022 – this section of the full-evening work was having its UK concert premiere.

Its future may lie in the concert hall more than the theatre because of the size of the orchestra required, and the prominent part played by an original sound recording of a Jerusalem Sephardic prayer, by cantor and chorus, which has to be finely balanced and synchronized with the orchestral sound at more than one point. The inspiration of the whole work is Dante’s Divine Comedy, and here (the Purgatory section) the thought is of cleansing and aspiration to the heights of heaven, all clearly incorporated in the musical story. Adès’ writing is, as ever, enormously inventive, complex and stimulating, making some amazing noises and thrilling in its final creation of an ever-expanding vista.

And, on top of all that, we had a world premiere – of Man With Limp Wrist, by William Marsey (who was present to take his bow at the end) – this was in the first part of the concert, with relatively smaller forces on board. The title is actually the last of a set of nine titles given to the nine short sections of the work (if you can count “Untitled” as a title), all of them demonstrating an interesting way of using melody and harmony from hymns or songs of the fairly distant past – sometimes building on a couple of lines that are familiar enough (the “Passion Chorale” of O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden, for instance, and what sounded to me rather like the carol tune Besançon, which we usually know as “People look east”), sometimes drawing on a variety of them at once or disguising them so well you can’t easily spot them (or at least I couldn’t).

What Marsey does with his material is the interesting thing. He writes music of emotion and expressiveness, sometimes in delicate and intricate textures, often with great contrapuntal complexity and interest. There’s a wide variety of colours and some highly emphatic climaxes, and you know when a piece has got to its end. That’s very attractive and rewarding.

In three of the five items on the programme, he was bringing his own music, and recent music, too


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters