Halle Season in Nottingham, 25 September 4****: William Ruff





September 25 2018


Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham




Review: William Ruff



Piano pyrotechnics and a top-form Hallé


It was a case of third time very lucky at the Royal Concert Hall on Tuesday. Ukrainian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk may have started as stand-in for the stand-in but ended as a Nottingham Treasure, in danger of having a tram named after him.


Those who had been stunned by his recent Rachmaninov Proms performance won’t have been surprised by his way with Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto.  You knew he was totally in control from the word go.  There was something almost balletic in the way the opening chords leapt from the keyboard and from there on everything about the performance was sonic theatre.


Yes, there was plenty of poetic, chamber-like intimacy in the slow movement but it was the physical excitement that made this performance so memorable: the hurling of fistfuls of notes towards the audience and all that muscle-power to push dynamics to extremes.


And after all that he came back to give the encore of a lifetime: Liszt’s Concert Paraphrase on Mendelssohn’s Wedding March which turns piano-playing into a death-defying high-wire act.  It brought the house down.


For this opening concert of the new Nottingham Classics season the Hallé was on top form too.  Under conductor Karl-Heinz Steffens its reappearance on the Nottingham concert scene was appropriately marked by Lemminkäinen’s Return, Sibelius’ energetic depiction of the Finnish hero’s homecoming after adventures including, amongst many other things, sleeping with 100 widows and 1000 virgins on an otherwise man-free island.  The Hallé certainly captured the music’s epic sweep.


They ended with what may well be Dvorák’s greatest symphony, No 7, their playing urgent and intense in the opening movement; profound in the second (with a magical horn solo); light-as-air in the dance-like scherzo and exhilaratingly triumphant in the finale.



Conductor: Karl-Heinz Steffen

Hallé Orchestra with Alexander Gavrylyuk, piano soloist

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