The Intermezzo that opened Sibelius's Karelia Suite began with a distant horn which before long brought on the jaunty march of Karelian hunters. Karelia is a province in Finland much loved by the composer. The hunters had come to pay tribute to a prince and the music was regal. In due course it fell away. The Ballade was much more gentle whilst the Alla marcia was robust and again jaunty. It was a particularly well chosen Scandinavian overture to begin a celebration of the 150th birthday of both Sibelius and Neilson.
Thomas Søndergård, the Orchestra's Principal Guest Conductor, in conversation at the pre-concert talk with Bill Chandler, the Associate Leader, gave a fascinating insight to the life and music of Carl Neilson (1865-1931). Although Neilson's Violin Concerto was about to be played by his chosen soloist, we were given the very clear impression that this was a complicated composition in the most technical of ways.
Canadian born James Ehnes was the conductor's choice as soloist for Neilson's Violin Concerto. Between them they made it deceptively easy, almost too easy. The audience loved it and we heard a Bach Sonata as encore.
The programme notes contained a photograph of Beethoven's dedication of his Symphony No 3 to show that initially it was dedicated to his hero Napoleon - but his name was crossed out when the great man became too big for his boots. In substitution is In Memory of a Great Man. It's a powerful and memorable work and really good to hear Thomas Søndergård conduct his Orchestra on top form. In all, a concert that was well planned, inspiring and noticeably audience pleasing.
Performance: Friday 24th April 2015 at 7.30pm