REVIEW: Haffner Orchestra

Ashton Hall, Lancaster

HUNDREDS of people enjoyed a night of passion at the Ashton Hall on Valentine's night.

A night of musical passion that is.

Lancaster's Haffner Orchestra performed a programme of romantic classical music guaranteed to melt the heart.

The most appropriate opening was Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture which brought back memories as the first classical concert I ever attended in the Ashton Hall as a child was one of Tchaikovsky's work.

So it was encouraging to see among the majority of more mature audience members that there was a fair share of young people.

And if they needed any further inspiration to take an interest in classical music it was there in the form of 29-year-old violinist Jack Liebeck, guest soloist for Bruch's Scottish Fantasy.

I was completely unfamiliar with this piece but the skill with which this acclaimed musician played his 224-year-old violin was mesmerising. The audience really took him to their hearts, prompting an equally impressive encore.

The second half was dedicated to Elgar's Enigma Variations and we couldn't be in better hands than those of charismatic conductor Natalia Luis-Bassa, a winner of the Elgar Society Prize and a real fan of the English composer.

In the pre-concert talk, she had explained how each of the 14 variations were dedicated to Elgar's friends, relations and even a dog which really helped to bring this popular work to life for me.

The Haffner obviously has a special place in people's hearts and the full house on Saturday proved that Lancastrians really do love their classical music.