sun 28/11/2021

Isata Kanneh-Mason, Hallé, Elder online review - triumphant film return | reviews, news & interviews

Isata Kanneh-Mason, Hallé, Elder online review - triumphant film return

Isata Kanneh-Mason, Hallé, Elder online review - triumphant film return

Extraordinary value for money in a full concert plus cinematic extras

Satisfying music-making: Isata Kanneh-Mason, the Hallé and Sir Mark Elder play BeethovenHallé Orchestra

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé are back in the Bridgewater Hall for the first programme in the second tranche of the orchestra’s digital Winter Season – filming that had to be postponed from its original planned date but is triumphantly achieved now. As before, the full orchestra is accommodated with a monster extension of the platform to allow for adequate distancing.

It’s a full-length, three-course concert, too – extraordinary value for money if you consider all the filmic extras provided on top of the excellent musical performances.

The lighting this time is subdued, with a lot of background blue and so little in the way of bright floods that the musicians and conductor all read from music stands with bulbs attached, like in a theatre pit. Perhaps it was inspired by the idea of the Nordic winter some see portrayed in parts of Sibelius’ Third Symphony – at any rate the music’s light and final brilliance make up for any gloom embodied in its cinematic presentation. 

And cinematic is what it is. Credit is are again due to Maestro Broadcasting for creating something special: not a concert in an empty hall as seen by a few flies on the side seats and gallery wall, but a multi-dimensional presentation of camerawork and mixing, as well as virtuosic playing. In the "normal" concert experience you can never get to see the players in close-up, or catch a view of the conductor as from their chairs, and it’s fascinating to watch.

Isata Kanneh-Mason playing Beethoven with the the HalléWe begin with the orchestra’s wind players in Richard Strauss’s Serenade of 1881, a remarkable sample of the powers of his 17-year-old mind. Sir Mark and his musicians create a lovely, lyrical sound in his Mozart-with-a-dash-of-saccharine, enjoying its charm and, not least, the dignity hidden in its syrup.

As usual with these Hallé films, there is an episode in which the conductor talks to a guest artist, and this time it’s Isata Kanneh-Mason (pictured right), who we’re about to see and hear as soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. They’re in the conductor’s room at the Bridgewater Hall, and it’s an informal chat, beginning about the whole Kanneh-Mason family’s lockdown experience and moving on, with enthusiasm, to the music to come.

That enthusiasm is apparent in the way she plays it. There’s great clarity in her touch, but also tenderness and even a little mystery in the first movement’s fantasy section. And her cadenza there takes on its own animated life quite apart from its technical display, with the little dolce passage a dramatic foil to the Presto. The leisurely slow movement begins in poetic style in the solo, the orchestral wind blending with it in a real tapestry of sound, and the film’s visuals tell us this was clearly satisfying music-making.

Charm is her watchword again in the finale, derived from a relatively relaxed tempo and delightful articulation from both pianist and woodwind soloists. The Hallé’s classical timps add their busy rumble to the orchestral tuttis, and the Presto is exuberant but without hysteria.

Short clips of talking heads both separate this from the Sibelius symphony and introduce it: viola Christine Anderson, flautist Sarah Bennett and Sir Mark enthuse about the music – and, refreshingly, there’s also a chance to hear sound engineer Stephen Portnoi, talking about the experience of recording this very symphony for CD, a job he first did for the orchestra and Sir Mark in 2007 and which has led to many more. He is also the leader of the team caring for the sound of this online recording.

Sir Mark describes the “rhythmic vitality” and “joy” of Sibelius’s writing in the Third Symphony. He gets it in the playing, too, the Hallé strings, led by Hannah Perowne, exemplifying it with energy in the opening movement; and his interpretation seems to have something almost akin to cheekiness alongside the big chorale-like themes which the players present with fervour. The Andantino middle movement may have its tinge of melancholy, but there is gentle affection in every note, and the finale builds its impetus and big crescendos with unrelenting determination.

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