Eric Lu Shines In Chopin's First Piano Concerto With The Halle
The Halle Orchestra returned to St George's Hall, Bradford as part of the 2019 season with a truly memorable concert: the highlight of which was an outstanding performance by Eric Lu of Chopin's Piano Concerto No 1. More of which later...
It was obvious we were in safe hands from the opening bars of Dvorák’s Scherzo capriccioso, as Czech conductor Tomás Hanus, making his Halle début, demonstrated an innate understanding of this delightful piece by his fellow countryman.
The Halle responded with an exciting, exuberant performance, which made the most of the colourful score and the captivating cross rhythms of the Bohemian dance, the furiant.
The Scherzo capriccioso is a challenging orchestral showpiece - no one, apart from the harp, enjoys playing in D flat major - so a shout out must go to the bass clarinet, cor anglais and harp, all of whom had solo spots and acquitted themselves very well.
Eric Lu, the winner of the 2018 Leeds International Piano Competition, comes across as a modest, unassuming young man, who lets the music itself take centre stage.
He has a natural affinity for Chopin's music: along with a flawless technique, his tone, clarity of touch, and shaping of phrases is exquisite.
Added to which, he possesses an astonishing maturity and a real gift for communicating his joy in the music, drawing you into his world.
Since winning the Leeds International Piano Competition, when he was accompanied by the Halle in the final, Eric Lu has performed with them several times, so it's no surprise that there is a clear understanding between orchestra and soloist.
Whilst being aware of wonderful playing from the orchestra, a lot of the time I hardly noticed their presence, so sensitively did they accompany the soloist; never drawing focus away from him, but providing exactly the right level of support.
It is a long time since a piano concerto has made such an emotional impact on me, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Eric Lu becomes one of the finest pianists of his generation.
Written as a graduation work at the Leningrad Conservatoire, when the composer was only 19, the premiere of Shostakovich's First Symphony in F minor in 1926 was possibly the most stunning symphonic debut made by any composer, and was one of Shostakovich's own favourite pieces.
The Halle delivered an exciting, full blooded performance of driving intensity and brilliantly controlled tuttis, making the most of the dynamic range.
Shostakovich scattered many solos throughout this work which allowed the Halle's talented musicians a chance to shine, with some stand-out performances; the flute, clarinet and bassoon in the first two movements; the cello, violin and oboe solos in the third movement and the violin, horn and timpani in the fourth movement. The piano part is also an exciting addition to the score and Darius Battiwalla more than did it justice.
Every section of the orchestra was on form; the strings were superb with a richness of tone and crisp well articulated playing, particularly in the coda and the brass brought the fire power in the final bars of the fourth movement, providing the icing on the cake. Job done!
A very special evening, with Tomás Hanus making an impressive Halle début.