Review: The Hallé, Bradford St George's Hall, Saturday 15th February 2020

BRITISH conductor Jonathan Nott is currently music director of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, and artistic director of the venerable Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. He also guest conducts some of the most prestigious bands in Europe and North America including the Berlin, Vienna and New York Philharmonics, the London Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, and Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra.

Jonathan Nott has been an infrequent visitor to these islands and so this belated Hallé debut was all the more keenly awaited.

Schubert's Symphony No 5 in B flat is regarded as the most Mozartian of his symphonies. Nott drew playing of extraordinary finesse from the Hallé. The degree of precision was astounding but his slowish tempos and sharply articulated phrasing sounded almost too reverential.

Richard Strauss was in his seventies when he penned this Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra. The music is wholly characteristic of late Strauss with its wistful colours and, at times, valedictory air. Nonetheless, the old man had lost none of his inventiveness or knack of re-kindling the youthful melodic grace of Schubert and Mozart. Hallé principal oboe Stéphane Rancourt was the eloquent soloist, responsive to the smallest nuances of mood and atmosphere and alive to the singing quality of Strauss's writing for his instrument. Nott and the Hallé rolled out a sumptuous backdrop of muted orchestral colours befitting this lovely autumnal work.

Mozart's Symphony No 39 in E flat is the most engaging of his great trilogy of final symphonic masterworks. A rustic Minuet replaces the customary third movement Scherzo and the Finale absolutely bristles with joy unconfined. The strings, anchored by four double basses, imparted both grandeur of scale and lithesome energy. Any lingering reservations about Nott's reading of Schubert's Fifth were swiftly cast aside. His pacing and balance of Mozart's ebullient Symphony No 39 felt exactly right. There was an enthusiastic response from an Intrepid audience, sadly depleted in numbers by the appalling weather.

Geoffrey Mogridge