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Review: Classic FM concert serves up perfect summer fare

The Royal Northern Sinfonia entered into the spirit of the latest Classic FM concert of popular classics

The Last Night at the Proms held at the City Hall in Newcastle, violinist Bradley Creswick.
The Last Night at the Proms held at the City Hall in Newcastle, violinist Bradley Creswick.

Classic FM Summer Strings, Sage Gateshead

The latest in the Classic FM concert series, featuring popular pieces composed for string orchestra, played to the Royal Northern Sinfonia’s strengths.

Concert director Bradley Creswick, in the 30th year of his association with the Sage resident orchestra, led from his chair as he and his fellow musicians providing perfect summer fare.

Works selected by Classic FM’s listeners will always bring in customers when there is the opportunity to hear them.

It was the live performance element which struck me forcibly here. We have grown used to the Hall One acoustic but it affords a level of detail and clarity that you seldom get from a recording.

There were no distractions here. The musicians sat on an unadorned stage with standard lighting, making us feel part of a large studio performance.

Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings was exquisitely beautiful, followed by Barber’s Adagio for Strings, always poignant and expressive in its newer role as memorial music.

The first half closed with Grieg’s Holberg Suite, a set of five Baroque-era dance forms set in a 19th Century classical style and the perfect and charming antidote to the Barber piece.

Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik opened the second half – easily recognisable music played with delicacy and precision – and was followed by the evening’s lesser known piece, Puccini’s Crisantemi.

This was written, before Puccini achieved success as an opera composer, in homage to the composer’s dead friend. Later he wrote a version for string orchestra minus the double basses and the themes were recycled into his third opera, Manon Lescaut.

Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis was the evening’s headline work, living up to its billing in all respects.

The performance calls for two string orchestras with an additional quartet and this timeless music, which so successfully bridges the gap between the medieval and modern worlds, was breathtakingly delivered.

We were even treated to an encore in the form of Hoe-Down from Aaron Copland’s Rodeo, with instrument twirling from the cellos and double basses – a fun finale to an evening of fine entertainment.

Rob Barnes

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