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The Hallé Orchestra at the Bath MozartFest

The Hallé Orchestra at the Bath MozartFest was almost as I expected them to be; they have a big name and made a big performance. I was gladdened by how they outperformed the string quartet on the opening night of the festival which I saw as well (they made me think of the guy who used to play the saw like a violin as a busker on the shopping streets of Bath). This was not the first performance of the Hallé in Bath, historically this was their second performance.

The whole festival seems to be trying to “jazz-up” Mozart this year and also other classical composers with a laboured style. The Hallé started well enough, their string section performing admirably but the brass section took half the set to warm up. I liked parts of their quintet of pieces of Mendelssohn’s music for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Intermezzo piece was the best the rest was droll and uninspired although we did enjoy some periods of great gusto in the playing.

They were regal and brilliant in parts but their undoing was not playing to their strengths. I found most the stuff they played was not in the most pleasing key and I compared the whole affair to a lunch time recital at the Victoria Rooms at the Department for Music at Bristol University – I had to lie down in a coffee shop after one of these concerts from how much of a “Bohemian” it made me, it really did affect me that physically. They also had a very machine like method for hack-sawing out some of their music and created an environment similar to that in the classic British comedy series “ ‘Allo, ‘Allo”.

The Mozart piece with Imogen Cooper on the piano was a success, she did make a few errors but I did not feel offended by it and at times she could have been accused of impersonating a Jazz pianist but her style made me think of Carmen. She was very quick and also surprisingly had underlying discipline which she only mastered as her playing drew to a close which was very pleasant right at the end, maybe she was a bit immature. The Hallé was unremarkable in the background.

The final piece with only the Hallé again was Dvorák’s Symphony No 9 in E minor Op 95 From the New World. This was played with remarkable composure, I especially liked the use of the drums. I felt that the embellishments and “hints” that the Hallé gave were pretty inane. I did not feel inspired but I did not feel like they had let me down. I would say they were better to listen to than Classic FM in my mother’s car and in a 1700 capacity sold out hall it was a pretty decent event (no one got beaten up). I would have liked if the Hallé had managed to up the sophistication of their musical algorithms and tuned into the patterns I enjoy the most and that would be fantastic.


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