Review: Ludwig Orchestra/Hannigan & CBSO/Gardner, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, June 22-23

Barbara Hannigan conducts and sings Gershwin with Ludwig Orchestra at Aldeburgh Festival 2019 Photo

Barbara Hannigan conducts and sings Gershwin with Ludwig Orchestra at Aldeburgh Festival 2019 Photo: Beki Smith - Credit: Archant

Over the final weekend of this year’s Aldeburgh Festival two superb concerts saw a brilliant display of inspiring leadership and dynamic performance.

Barbara Hannigan has already established a reputation as both conductor and soloist; the Dutch Ludwig Orchestra, formed in 2012, has garnered many plaudits for its adventurous spirit and performing elan.

Their Saturday concert opened with Stravinsky's complete ballet Pulcinella. There was precision, delicacy and a sense of enjoyment in the performance, the contributions of trombone and double bass in the well -known Vivo a particular delight. Singers Kate Howden, James Way and Antoin Kessel all made well characterised contributions.

Haydn's Symphony no 49 wears a serious demeanour (F minor after all) but it is imbued with typical energy and spirit and Hannigan directed a crisp performance with attractive wind articulation.

Gershwin's Girl Crazy first appeared in 1930 and more recently Hannigan, with composer and arranger Bill Elliott, made a suite from the original. She conducted and sang - sometimes simultaneously - with brio and to great and deserved acclaim.

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Sunday's closing concert began with Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra. The City of Birmingham strings launched into the complex polyphony with full vigour, the slow movement was tenderly pastoral and Gardner engineered a suitably emphatic ending to the finale.

Stephen Hough is one of the finest pianists of today and his playing of Beethoven's marvellous G major concerto ranged from exquisite to exhilarating. Gardner and the orchestra accompanied sensitively (though perhaps a little too loudly in the tuttis of the finale) and the expansive first movement flowed with a seamless inevitability.

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Alisa Weilerstein was the soloist in Thomas Larcher's Ouroboros for cello and orchestra. The unfamiliar name is related to the similar music that opens and closes the work - a rather effective representation of the wind rustling leaves. There are moments of real beauty but also passages of musical rage and Weilerstein was equal to it all.

A gripping, superbly played performance of Bartok's sleazy Miraculous Mandarin raced to a breathtaking conclusion and was followed by a warmly received tribute to Oliver Knussen - his 'Flourish for Fireworks'.

Exceptional in every way.

Gareth Jones

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