The third visit over the decades of the Hallé Orchestra from
Elder has had a substantial career marked by his years as Music Director of the English National Orchestra(1979-93) and guest conducting with prestigious concert and opera orchestras. He has an eclectic taste and a big repertoire.
The Hallé is the oldest professional orchestra in
I unfortunately couldn´t hear the first concert, which included Richard Strauss´ "Don Juan", Grieg´s Piano Concerto, Wagner´s First Act Prelude to "Lohengrin" and Elgar´s "Enigma Variations". Happily I caught the latter when it was included in the Midday Concert. The second concert started with Verdi´s Overture to "The Sicilian Vespers", followed by Liszt´s First Piano Concerto, four Preludes by Debussy (originally for piano, orchestrated by the Hallé´s composer-in-residence Colin Matthews and an Argentine premiere; both facts were omitted in the programme page) and Shostakovich´s First Symphony. The Midday Concert had "Don Juan" (which I couldn´t hear), three of the four Debussy Preludes and the "Enigma Variations". Along for the tour we met for the first time 27-year-old Polina Leschenko, a beautiful blonde born in
Now to what I heard. A sanguine, forceful and precise account of Verdi´s Overture. An admirable version of Liszt´s Concerto, adroitly accompanied and played by Leschenko, who showed not only a masterful technique but an approach both subtle, elegant and full of strength, almost like a young Argerich (who has promoted her). The encore was quite unusual: music lovers know well Chopin´s "Andante spianato and Grand Polonaise", but as a piano piece; here we were offered the piano and orchestra version! The orchestra hasn´t much to do, however, so we marvelled again at Leschenko´s delicacy in the "Andante" and strong rhythm coupled with the effortless solving of the many intricate passages of one of Chopin´s great showpieces, this particularly scintillating Polonaise.
It was the Orchestra that asked Mathews to orchestrate the Debussy Piano Preludes, and he did all 24. Frankly I see no need for this exercise, for the shimmering Debussy pieces are truly pianistic and orchestration (even a good one, as Mathews´), far from enriching them changes their essence. For the record, they were: "Homage to S. Pickwick, Esq., PPMPC", "Canope", "La puerta
The encores mitigated a complaint of mine: no British music in the programme. But then, as Elder himself acknowledged, the logical British quota came to the fore in Elgar´s lovely "Sospiri" for strings (which I can´t remember having heard here) and the entrancing "Knightsbridge March " from Eric Coates´ "London Suite", heard only once here (Bedford with the B.A. Phil). It was a charming end to a significant concert. But on the following midday I was completely bowled over by a much bigger Elgar score, the wonderful "Enigma Variations" premiered here by Sir Malcolm Sargent. This has long been a Hallé specialty, and the Barbirolli version, along with the Boult, retain their places as the great references. But Elder´s minute control and total understanding, and the coruscating brilliance of the orchestra in the terribly difficult fast bits coupled with their full and noble sound in such a variation as "Nimrod", made for a fantastic version that had me in tears. It was the final cap on a great visit.
A personal wish which I hope will come true: we know admirable London orchestras as the Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonia and the BBC, but we have never been visited by the other two superb organisms, the London Symphony and the London Philharmonic; I´ve heard them in their home city, but I do believe the Argentine public will welcome them with open arms.
For Buenos Aires Herald