June 5 2019
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
The Nottingham Classics season ends with a Mahlerian showpiece spectacular
The current Nottingham Classics season ended on Wednesday with a bang or, more precisely, with a symphony by Gustav Mahler. No 1 this year, just as it was No 2 last year and will be No 3 in 2020. So what makes Mahler the showpiece spectacular of choice?
There is a sense of ‘what can follow that?’ about the composer. His 1st Symphony is, by his standards, a relatively modest affair, lasting (just) under an hour. But there is the sense that ‘all life is here’. It opens with the mysterious awakening of the natural world, full of birdsong and early morning light (beautifully recreated by the Hallé) but human activity soon intrudes (courtesy of offstage military-sounding trumpets) and what follows is a kaleidoscope of oompah bands, children’s songs and folk dances as the music lurches from the vulgar to the serene, from despair to triumph, from the dreamy to the cataclysmic.
Conductor Gergely Madaras was alert to all these moods, managing some abrupt musical gear changes. There was plenty of energy and optimism in the opening movements as well as a vivid sense of the grotesque in the third. And the final bars were thrilling, with all eight horns on their feet in a blaze of triumph.
In the first half the Hallé opened with a sprightly performance of Mozart’s overture to Die Entführung, the music’s general bounciness enhanced by enthusiastic use of so-called ‘Turkish’ effects from triangle, cymbals and bass drum.
Benjamin Grosvenor was the soloist in Beethoven’s 2nd Piano Concerto, the composer’s smallest-scale, most Mozartean concerto and one which needs elegance, wit and a meticulous attention to phrasing ng to full bloom. Benjamin Grosvenor brought to it all this as well as lots of youthful zest, dazzling technique and an ability to conjure up some lovely sounds from the RCH Steinway.
Hallé conducted by Gergely Madaras, with Benjamin Grosvenor (piano)