When conductor David Curtis said that Haydn’s symphonies were under-performed in the concert hall I uttered an inward “Hear, hear!” followed by an equally silent cheer when he added that the orchestra will play several during the forthcoming season. The omens were good. As the introduction to Haydn’s Symphony No.85 La Reine rang out – with just the right touch of Handelian pomp and grandeur. It was a sparkling performance with an inflected slow movement and merry trio with chortling bassoons.
Raphael Wallfisch’s playing was suave and elegant in Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations for cello and orchestra where the composer wittily captures the musical spirit of earlier times without resorting to pastiche. He was nimble in the quick variations but had ample warmth and richness of tone for the romantic seventh variation where Tchaikovsky enters the world of his beloved ballet.
Wallfisch’s encore, Tchaikovsky’s Nocturne, was a tasty musical morsel.
Mozart’s Symphony No.40 began at a cracking pace, Curtis providing the molto allegro tempo the composer asked for but which conductors are often reluctant to supply. The playing throughout was strong yet supple but the horns – outstanding for the right reasons in Haydn and Tchaikovsky – here sounded raw, even raucous, perhaps because they were too prominently balanced. In the sublime andante the asperities of Mozart’s music were too often smoothed away and Curtis explored only the shallows not its tumultuous emotional depths.