REVIEW: The Haffner Orchestra in concert, Lancaster University

Bibi Heal.
Bibi Heal.

ANNA PENDLEBURY writes...This was an impressive concert which which appropriately reflected a very Scandinavian flavour for Valentine’s night.

The mood was made even more romantic with a performance by husband and wife team, vocal soloist Bibi Heal and conductor Justin Doyle.

The concert included Peer Gynt Incidental music by Grieg, Six Songs [opus 10] by Nielson and Symphony no 5 by Sibelius.

The Incidental music showed the varying facets of the orchestra with an exciting build up for ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’.

There was some evocative string playing and beautiful articulation from the woodwind in the Arabian Dance.

Perhaps expression was lacking in Anitra’s Dance, but with Solveig’s Song, we were treated to a beautifully defined and expressive vocal line by Bibi Heal.

Strings occasionally lacked definition of musical line in the closing numbers, but this was balanced by a very emotional and expressive vocal close.

The Six Songs [Opus 10] by Neilsen showed the soloist and orchestra off at their best. Bibi Heal demonstrated a mastery expression of vocal technique and musicality which transported us to the Danish countryside and its folk traditions.

The orchestra throughout were sensitive to the soloist providing support and often mirroring the vocal line. The combination overall allowed the audience to be fully immersed in the performance throughout.

The performances of the first half set the stage for the performance of what is regarded as Sibelius’s most difficult Symphony, and a real challenge for any orchestra.

The Haffner rose to the occasion with a fine build up from various exposed solo lines from horns, flute, clarinet, bassoon and trumpet. The strings demonstrated fine unison playing with strong and clear articulation in the opening movement. The first movement closed with impressive brass playing, providing momentum and excitement to the end.

The Andante mosso, quasi allegretto communicated much of the delicacy and balance that characterised the orchestral performance throughout, although here, occasionally the character of the music was lacking.

For me, the Allegro molto demonstrated some of the best playing of the symphony and the entire concert, displaying energy, excitement and direction throughout. Overall, a powerful courageous performance with some exceptional moments.

Thank you Haffner, Bibi Heal and Justin Doyle for a memorable Valentine’s concert extravaganza!