The Hallé in Leeds

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I have a soft spot for the Hallé orchestra.

It was the first orchestra I ever saw performing live. I was 13, and I remember the dress I wore (made by me specially for the occasion in those days when clothes cost real money and it was normal for people to sew their own), and the shoes, but not a lot of the programme. I was so mesmerized by the sight of the violins playing in unison that I wasn’t conscious of
listening to the actual music, although I suppose I must have done so. Anyway, it made a deep and positive impression, and consequently I’m always very happy to seize a chance to see the Halle’s violinists along with the rest of the orchestra and their conductor.

And so as a delightful end to a delightful Slow day (more of which tomorrow), Himself and I found ourselves the lucky recipients of two spare tickets for a concert at Leeds Town Hall.

It proved to be a magical, absorbing and hugely rewarding concert. Music from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel (always a favourite since my three girls sang in an Opera North production a few years ago); Bruch’s violin concerto which always tugs at my insides; and Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony which nearly brings me to tears.

The conductor Andrew Gourlay (@GourlayA) was superb; I’d not heard him before, but since our freebie tickets had us towards the middle of the second row, I was able for once in my own little myopic world to closely observe the visual exchanges between orchestra and conductor, and I was quite entranced by his warm communication. The emotion and sensitivity and feeling was palpable from all involved, and I particularly enjoyed the balletic expressiveness of the double bass section leader.

But the most intriguing bit came after the tremendous performance of the Bruch by violinist Sophia Jaffé. The applause from the audience became ever more tumultuous each time she emerged to take a bow, and an encore was inevitable. She announced a piece called Sunrise by “…Eugenio Isaië…” and it was absolutely brilliant. Except Himself heard the composer as a Japanese-sounding name. There was undoubtedly an Eastern influence on the piece with hints of O-koto coming through, but I was left with the challenge of finding it.

Googling the title and variants of the imagined composer names clearly got me nowhere. Then I thought to google Jaffé’s recordings and lo and behold, I find a composer called Eugène Ysaye (1858-1931) so my hearing after all is perfectly alright it seems, although my orthography may be slightly skewed. But I feel a real sense of triumph and achievement at completing my circle of knowledge from the evening.

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