mon 04/03/2024

Radulović, Hallé, de la Parra, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - fun for the young | reviews, news & interviews

Radulović, Hallé, de la Parra, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - fun for the young

Radulović, Hallé, de la Parra, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - fun for the young

Concerto by Khachaturian provides a centrepiece and a demonstration by two rising stars

Freedom and awareness: Alondra de la Parra conducting the HalléAlex Burns, the Hallé

Back on home ground, the Hallé begin 2024 in Manchester with a repeated programme. I heard the first of three performances this week. It includes one piece they played only 10 days ago on a tour in Spain with the orchestra’s new principal conductor designate, Kahchun Wong.

This time, however, the conductor was Alondra de la Parra (main picture), whose experience of working with young people was immediately apparent as she struck up a relationship with the parties of youngsters in the audience, talking to them about the music before the playing began.

Two of the works – Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite (1945 version) – are in the “Model Music” curriculum for Key Stages One to Three: hence the young attenders.

Nemanja Radulović, violin, with the HalléThe Debussy was a model, too, showing their precision and subtlety of sound as effectively as any flag-bearing trip abroad, and featuring Sarah Bennett in the role of solo flute – she was to feature prominently later, too – with a start to the piece that was magically subdued, and balanced by the gently intoxicating sound of Laurence Rogers’ horn. Alondra de la Parra brought a freedom of tempo and awareness of phrase to the piece that were highly effective, and the entire wind section shone.

For the Stravinsky (the piece they’d recently played with Kahchun Wong) there was again a telling range of expression, from finely balanced wind solos, and those by guest leader Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux in the Pas de deux, to the triple forte of the Final Hymn. Principal clarinet Sergio Castelló López, bassoon Alvaro Prieto and principal cello Nicholas Trygstad made beautiful sounds in the Dance of the Princesses and the Rondo, and the delicacy at the end of the latter gave all the more impact to the Infernal Dance, while the final bars were as grand as ever.

The centre of this programme, however, was not such a mainstream piece: it was the Violin Concerto by Aram Khachaturian, and it was played by the virtuosic young Serbian, Nemanja Radulović (pictured above right), who has recorded it to considerable acclaim. So here was something for conductor and soloist, two rising stars, to make into a demonstration of what they can do. The concerto, written in 1940, was never ground-breaking but is immensely attractive in the lively rhythms of its outer movements, the virtuosity of its solo part (it was written for David Oistrakh) and the haunting beauty of its central Adagio sostenuto.

Radulović was up for all its challenges, and the opening Allegro was fast and energetically danceful at the outset and sweet and gentle later. It contains a cadenza which begins as a kind of duet with the orchestra’s clarinet – another skilful contribution from Sergio Castelló López – and then seems obsessively built on development of a multi-stopped chord. The cadenza certainly became an event in this performance, and the close of the movement was rewarded with enthusiastic applause.

The slow movement begins almost Satie-like as a strange slow waltz, then features a folky violin solo (done in best gypsy style by Radulović), and there is also a two-part texture for violas against celli and bassi which introduces a mysterious passage for the solo violin before a brassy ending. That’s quite a lot of variety for a slow movement, but de la Parra and Radulović made it all seem proportionate and flowing.

The finale is pure circus music, though, and Alondra de la Parra wanted us to enjoy it. Radulović sold the solo fireworks with brilliance and imagination, and they even managed a bit of acceleration right at the end.

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