Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall played host to some heavenly music this past weekend, a rare treat for any music lover and a special delight for fans of the violinist James Ehnes. As part of the Journey Through Music series, the concert was definitely one of the highlights, led with exquisite finesse by BBC Philharmonic conductor laureate, Gianandrea Noseda.
The programme began with the familiar, exuberant and always thrilling Overture to the William Tell opera by Gioachino Rossini. That particular piece of music has made its way into the subconscious of most people who have ever listened to classical music at all (or watched ‘The Lone Ranger’) and it was performed just the way it should be, so the listener can see the pennants flying and feel the earth shake with hoofs.
Next up, Canadian virtuoso Ehnes and conductor Noseda were perfectly in sync with the Second Concerto, one of Prokofiev’s most complex and enthralling works. From first to last, the moods and imagery evoked by the different movements, from sombre to joyful and surrounding the lovely melody evolving in the central Andante, are powerful and poignant. Both conductor and violinist show a deep understanding and respect for the beauty of this extraordinary concerto.
Finally, The Firebird in all its glory, Stravinsky’s opus that captures the realm of magic and presents it in living musical colours. From the opening bars the audience is transported to the world of dragons and demons and enchanted castles, fair ladies and fearless knights. Romance and drama, violence and tenderness lead one to the other in an absolutely wonderful performance from a conductor and an orchestra at the top of their form.