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Review: Halle Orchestra, Harrogate International Festivals
Elaine Annable, Music Correspondent
Sir Mark Elder
The final concert of the Harrogate International Music Festival included a celebration of Tchaikovsky on the 125th anniversary of the composer’s death.

This special night, featuring the world renowned Halle Orchestra under their conductor and Music Director, Sir Mark Elder, and Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud, in a performance of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, proved to be an unforgettable Festival Finale.

Despite the fact that the first work on the programme, Schubert's Symphony No.8 'Unfinished' is a piece this orchestra must have played hundreds, nay thousands of times before, not once did I get the sense that this was an orchestra going through the motions. Attention to detail made all the difference to their interpretation - precise articulation from the strings and great attention to dynamics.

In the interval I heard one person remark “well that first piece was a bit dour!” To which I can only respond that she must have been listening to a different piece. From where I was sitting Schubert's Unfinished Symphony was awash with gorgeous melodies.

Another person was heard to say “well it's a bit of an odd opener, usually starts with an overture”. There's really no pleasing some people is there......

Henning Kraggerud
This was followed by a mesmerising performance of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto by Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud. At the end of the first movement the audience were unable to restrain themselves, and burst into spontaneous prolonged applause. It is rare for a Harrogate audience to break the unwritten code of silence between movements of a concerto or symphony, but both the Halle and soloist were on top form and they clearly wanted to show their appreciation. Henning Kraggerud's deep natural musicianship shone throughout this work and there was a real connection between him, the orchestra and their conductor.

Dvorak's Symphony No. 7 in D minor in my opinion doesn't get performed nearly enough, so I was delighted to hear that it was on the finale programme. I'm happy to report that the Halle more than did it justice.

I particularly love the way that Dvorak's theme in the cellos at the start of this symphony gives a cheeky nod back to the theme introduced by the strings at the start of Schubert's Unfinished. Unintentional maybe, but satisfying all the same.

Also by Elaine Annable...
Review: Laura Mvula, Harrogate International Festivals
Review: Meridiem Duo, Harrogate International Festivals
Review: Emma Johnson, Harrogate International Festivals
Review: Noble Jacks And Huw Eddy & The Carnival, Grassington Festival
Review: Brodsky Quartet - Opera North - Howard Assemby Room
Dvorak wrote exquisitely for woodwind and a shout out must go to the first clarinet, flute and horns, who were outstanding. In fact, Dvorak shares his sublime melodies amongst all the orchestra - even the often overlooked violas are gifted something rather wonderful to play towards the end of the third movement Scherzo.

All-in-all a fabulous evening of music and congratulations should go to the Festival Committee team for such a successful and memorable series of concerts.

Review: Halle Orchestra, Harrogate International Festivals, 1st August 2018, 15:59 PM