After the impassioned music of Eastertide, we were back into broad sunlit uplands with an entirely cheerful and expressive programme from Royal Northern Sinfonia and guest soloists.
Being the daughter of Franz Liszt, and married to Richard Wagner, Cosima will have been used to the sound of musicians, but maybe not outside her bedroom door when she awoke on her birthday.
Wagner had brought in an ensemble who sat on the stairs and played her ‘symphonic birthday greeting’ – the Siegfried Idyll, so named after their son, born shortly before.
Royal Northern Sinfonia opened the concert with this lyrical and heartfelt piece, with conductor Mario Venzago teasing the emotions from all parts of the orchestra.
The evening’s headline piece, the familiar Mozart Clarinet Concert in A, was written in poverty towards the end of his life, yet with joy and serenity in his heart.
This brought soloist Julian Bliss on stage. Already a friendly face on TV and around the world’s concert halls, he provided a wonderfully light touch and an easy, mellifluous style, making full eye contact with his audience – who were rewarded with a bonus Mozart aria.
The Sage concert-goers always receive a Bradley Creswick solo performance enthusiastically. This time it was Beethoven’s Romance No. 1 – written after No. 2 but published first.
It was characteristically distinctive, played with energy and lyricism, and beautifully supported by his orchestral colleagues.
Mario Venzago was at his animated and engaging best when conducting Haydn’s London Symphony, the 104th and last of the composer’s prolific career.
Haydn loved his time in London and, after its premiere performance in 1795, said: “The whole company was thoroughly pleased and so was I. I made 4,000 gulden (about £25,000 in today’s money) on the evening: such a thing is only possible in England.”
A win-win for Haydn back then, and very much so for the packed Hall One audience who lapped up every bar of this fine symphony and the rest of the evening’s entertainment.