Halle Orchestra, Mozartfest at Bath Forum

THE word feast could well be substituted for ‘Fest’ which  follows Mozart, the composer at the heart of this annual festival now in its 28th year, on all the publicity material for the Bath’s Mozart Fest.

Once again artistic director Amelia Freedman has brought a dazzling array of musical talent to the City of Bath for this years event. They range from old favourites like the Nash Ensemble, founded by Amelia in 1964, to the Sitkovetsky Piano Trio who came into being 43 years later.

The main concentration is, as always, on chamber music with just one opportunity to enjoy a full symphony orchestra coming via this visit to the Forum by the Halle Orchestra under the beautifully controlled baton of Sir Mark Elder. When Sir Mark took over as musical director of the Halle in 1999, this once proud and highly rated Orchestra had slipped quite a way from its glory days under Sir John Barbirolli.

In the years since Sir Mark took charge, the orchestra has steadily risen in stature and as could be heard from the first notes of Weber’s Overture to Oberon, which, as Sir Mark pointed out, has nothing to do with Shakes­peare’s character in A Midsum­mer Night’s Dream, and everything to do with Weber’s Opera based on  Martin Wieland’s verse story, the partnership forged over nearly 20 years is as strong as ever.

You could feel that here was a group of musicians who wanted to do their best for their conductor who in turn had every faith in their ability to interpret the music as he wished it to be played.

This same loving partnership could be felt during the two works by Richard Wagner which closed the concert, the often rousing sounds of the Preludes to Acts 1 and 111 of Lohengrin and more complex rhythms of the Suite from Die Meistersinger.

Conductor and orchestra were quite willing, and did so with great skill, to draw back into a supporting role when pianist Francesco Piemontesi took centre stage to play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5 in E flat major, The Emperor. Looking through Francesco’s CV in the programme it is as an interpreter of Mozart and the Romantics that he is best known, but the verve and freedom of expression the 35-year-old Swiss-born pianist brought to this work left you with the thought that you like to hear his interpretation of Beethoven’s earlier works for piano before this his final piano concerto.


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