Haffner shows skill and a sure touch

Natalia Luis-Bassa.
Natalia Luis-Bassa.

Haffner Orchestra, Ashton Hall, Lancaster

A large highly appreciative audience enjoyed the Haffner Orchestra’s recent summer concert, presenting a thoughtfully planned programme in a delightful mixture of musical styles.

Bela Bartok’s Rumanian Folk Dances opened the evening with a dramatic suite of short dances, played with vigour and flair.

Despite some initial problems with string intonation, Gustav Holst’s Egdon Heath – perhaps the most challenging of orchestral tone poems – was powerfully presented as a well-co-ordinated kaleidoscopic evocation of attributes, moods, and imagery associated with the setting of Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native.

The audience included a large contingent of enthusiastic young musicians from the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band. So it was a special delight to enjoy the virtuosic playing of Peter Lawrence in Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto. His assured technique and stylistic panache delighted the entire audience.

To complete the evening, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony was presented with purposefully relaxed tempi, which often allowed musical detail to speak and be heard more clearly than usual within orchestral tutti passages.

The orchestra played with particular assurance in the last two movements where well-controlled contrasts in articulation and dynamics produced ensemble playing of a high order.

Under the consistently imaginative and thoughtful direction of Natalia Luis-Bassa, the Haffner has maintained its high reputation for musical excellence.