One of the UK's longest established professional orchestras, The Halle have developed a fine reputation, regularly touring from their Manchester base to appreciative audiences around the country.
With two numbers on offer for their Nottingham Classics date it was time to settle down amongst the fine acoustics of the Royal Concert hall and take in some some pleasing aural delights.
Crossing the Alps – Colin Matthews
Crossing the Alps, a new Halle commission from its Associate Composer, Colin Matthews was written in response to Mahler’s Symphony No.2. This powerful choral piece started the evening with the fluid sound of the Halle choir. Although seemingly slightly off at the start, with some choir members not paying complete attention to the conductor, passion and intensity flowed from their voices creating an atmosphere of excitement and setting the mood perfectly for what was about to come in Mahler’s Symphony.
Symphony No.2 ‘Resurrection’ – Mahler
The orchestra continually created an air of intrigue led by the buoyant Conductor Markus Stenz. Throughout the Symphony and up until its climatic 5th movement, the atmosphere is uneasy, resolution never quite fulfilled. Its minor key in the first movement lays perfectly with the idea of death, frenzied and angry.
A calmer feeling is created in the 2nd movement, the orchestra playing this section more delicately, with immense skill and precision softly indicating a simple line of intertwining parts.
Stenz’s vigour and charismatic conducting was a joy to watch, particularly during the 3rd movement, which was at times hard to follow. Despair and unease flowed through the sound of each instrument and this is perhaps what Mahler intended, his Resurrection completely wrapped around the audience.
As the symphony moved into the 4th movement mezzo-soprano Katerina Karneus’ smooth tones lift the piece into a reflective mood, resolution almost apparent with a build up to the triumphant finale of the 5th movement.
The finale is very distinctively in two sections. The first instrumental, taking themes from the first 4 movements, pushing out the change in moods created throughout from each orchestral section. The second section is spine tingling and goose bump inducing, the audience waiting with baited breath as choral, sopranos and orchestra come together releasing their passion in one climatic sound of elation and relief.
Resurrection was six years in the making, an exhausting and emotional journey through life, death and what lies ahead; Mahler’s Symphony No.2 has been cited as his most spectacular work and it’s not difficult to hear why, during his lifetime, this was his most successful work.
The Halle have a reputation as one of the UK's leading classical orchestras and it shows, I would certainly watch the Manchester based musicians perform again; their sound was magnificent, beautiful and thought provoking.
Markus Stenz - conductor
Susan Gritton - soprano
Katerina Karneus - mezzo-soprano
The Halle orchestra performed Colin Matthews – Crossing the Alps and Mahler - Symphony No.2 ‘Resurrection’ for Nottingham Classics at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall on Sunday 31 January 2010.