thu 09/12/2021

Royal Northern Sinfonia, Sage Gateshead online review – a grab bag of players’ favourites | reviews, news & interviews

Royal Northern Sinfonia, Sage Gateshead online review – a grab bag of players’ favourites

Royal Northern Sinfonia, Sage Gateshead online review – a grab bag of players’ favourites

Piazzolla the centrepiece of an imaginative and varied programme

The Royal Northern Sinfonia play Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante

The Royal Northern Sinfonia handed its players artistic control of the programme for this livestream from the Sage, Gateshead and if the result lacked coherence it certainly had the variety and diversity missing from the Wigmore Hall Nash Ensemble recital I reviewed last month.

Centred around Piazzolla’s popular Estaciones Porteñas, in the composer’s centenary year, it also featured music by Germaine Tailleferre, Daniel Kidane, Dobrinka Tabakova and – incongruously – Haydn. But if the latter’s Sinfonia Concertante felt like an interloper from another programme, a breezy and generous-spirited performance went a good way to dispelling doubts.

Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires were not conceived as a sequence, so it made sense to scatter the movements throughout the programme. There are also benefits given the diminishing returns in Piazzolla’s somewhat samey nuevo tango style, although the Seasons are as varied as anything of his. He is also very conducive to rescoring: like Bach, something essential about his music survives the process. Here the original quintet scoring became solo violin and string orchestra, which offered more heft and depth, and a bed of support for the virtuosity of the solo part.Violinist Marie Schreer with the Royal Northern SinfoniaThe solos were shared between four violinists of the orchestra, who all shone in their different ways. Marie Schreer (pictured above) had swagger and a gutsy sound, Gaëlle-Anne Michel revelled in the soured and twisted quotes from Vivaldi, Katarina Nazarova showed quicksilver wit in her extended cadenza and Alanna Tonetti-Tieppo played with humility and tender sincerity. The orchestra were at times percussive, meaty, sultry and – important word in the world of tango – passionate.

Starting with Dobrinka Tabakova’s Organum Light was a strange choice – its icy detachment would have had more impact coming after the Piazzolla. With the string quintet strikingly vibrato-less in hymn-like parallelisms with more than a hint of Arvo Pärt, this ritualistic, impassive music made a strong impression. As did, on a smaller canvas, Germaine Tailleferre’s understated clarinet sonata, played lovingly by Jessica Lee (pictured below). It’s not a piece I know, by a composer I should know better, but was languid and slightly bluesy, with a distinct French accent.Jessica Lee, clarinettist of the Royal Northern SinfoniaDaniel Kidane’s Towards Resolution also left me wanting more. In a mere three minutes he re-imagined a Purcell fantasia in clusters of descending notes, essentially static but with glissandos and tremolos disturbing the surface. Like the Tabakova it has a slightly distant demeanour, but complete conviction and a sense of being bigger than itself.

The Haydn Sinfonia Concertante for violin, cello, oboe and bassoon didn’t really belong in this company and represented quite a stylistic jolt. Enjoyable as it was, I would rather have had something longer by Kidane or Tailleferre. But the playing was zesty and full of fun – Haydn is perhaps of all the great composers the one you’d like to have a beer with, based on music like this. Alexandra Raikhlina directed impressively from the violin, particularly the tricky recitative sections of the final movement. Steffan Morris took his second solo of the evening, after a touching solo in the Piazzolla. But the heard of the piece was the reedy athleticism of oboist Michael O’Donnell and bassoonist Stephen Reay. The interplay between the soloists at the end was Haydn playing to the crowd in the best sense – and it is now not too long before there will be an actual crowd to play to.

@bernardlhughes

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