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Review: Simply Sinfonia: Serenade, Sage Gateshead

The Royal Northern Sinfonia performed works by Haydn, Elgar, Mozart and others in an intimate Sage concert. Rob Barnes was there

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.

This finely judged programme featured English and Austrian masterworks from the 18th to the 20th centuries.

It also gave us the pleasure of hearing, centre stage, two Royal Northern Sinfonia section leaders, Louisa Tuck (cello) and Steven Hudson (oboe).

Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, that most comforting of English pastoral music, took us to the hills and fields of Worcestershire, mirroring the soft late summer evening on Tyneside.

This early composition has stood the test of time, bearing out the notoriously self-critical composer’s own positive view of the work.

We were treated to a reverent, delicate and sympathetic reading.

With the orchestra supplemented by horns and oboes, Louisa Tuck provided an elegant presentation of Josef Haydn’s lyrical Second Cello Concerto.

Haydn scored this as more technically challenging than its predecessor but our soloist provided a delightful and mannered interpretation.

Vaughan Williams’ 1944 Concerto for Oboe and Strings is a fine piece of arcadian English music. Requiring great virtuosity, agility and lyricism on the part of the oboist, Steven Hudson’s technique was well up to the challenge.

It was an engaging and expressive performance of a work whose soft and luscious string harmonies were at odds with the world in which it was composed (its London premiere was postponed because of V-1 flying bombs).

Summer 1788 was productive for Mozart whose last three symphonies date from that time. His number 39 is classic orchestral Mozart and he delivers on all counts.

The orchestra brought us back to a fuller sound with the additional bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani, and it was a delight from start to finish, its four movements joyfully performed.

Without the traditional conductor, Bradley Creswick led the orchestra from his chair with only occasional unobtrusive gestures to guide his troops. It added to the intimacy of the occasion.

Rob Barnes


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