Halle Orchestra, St George’s Hall, Bradford, Thursday 21st February 2019

MY memories of many concerts at St George’s Hall go way back to 28th January 1966. The occasion was one of the Halle Orchestra’s regular Bradford Subscription Concerts conducted by the beloved Sir John Barbirolli. This one unforgettably included the first performance at “The Subs” of Anton Bruckner’s dark, brooding Symphony No 9 in D minor.

So I journeyed to Bradford for the Halle’s first concert in the now handsomely refurbished Hall in a state of some excitement and keen anticipation. The reinstated Hall Ings entrance to the historic grade ll* listed building has restored the dignity and sense of “occasion” lost in the 1980s refurbishment. Once inside the remodelled lobby, I was almost bowled over by the mirrored honeycomb ceiling which reflects a magnificent mosaic tiled floor, concealed for decades and now restored to its former glory. Guests can then sink into one of the large comfy sofas, view nostalgic photographs and posters of past shows or enjoy good food and drinks in the all day restaurant.

The style of these elegant and spacious front of house areas makes a bold, modern statement. This is in striking contrast to the shoebox shaped auditorium with its tiers of crimson plush chairs stretching towards the decorative concert organ - forlorn and silent since the 1980s - and upwards to the richly ornamented ceiling.

The need to improve audience comfort and enhance views of the stage, by reconfiguring seating in the side balconies, has reduced the capacity to 1350. I can definitely vouch for the comfort of the refurbished chairs and generous knee-room in the previously cramped grand tier.

I could wish that the shiny new oak flooring in the stalls had been extended to the upper levels. During the 1980s refurbishment, large areas of the auditorium were carpeted and heavy velvet curtains hung from the (hitherto uncovered) balcony windows. These “improvements” were seemingly made with little regard to the effect on the Hall’s admired acoustic.

Addressing last Thursdays audience, Mexican conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto expressed his and the orchestras’s delight at opening the orchestral series in the revitalised St George’s Hall. Manuel De Falla’s ballet El Amor Brujo infused the atmosphere with Mediterranean warmth. Sergio Castello Lopez, the Halle’s principal clarinet gave a pellucid and beautifully shaped performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. This very special concert ended with Prieto and the Halle’s electrifying account of Beethoven’s exhilarating Symphony No 7 in A.

Geoffrey Mogridge