Superb 60th anniversary concert at Sage Gateshead

The Royal Northern Sinfonia celebrated their sixtieth anniversary by giving a three-part gala concert at the Sage Gateshead on Sunday (23rd September). The concert, directed by Lars Vogt, showcased the heart of the chamber repertoire, featuring the classical masters who invented the form – namely, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

Royal Northern Sinfonia

Before the concert proper, in the foyer, we were treated to a fanfare Venetian Sky by the 40 year old British composer James Weeks. The concert began with Lars Vogt and the orchestra together with the Chorus of the Royal National Sinfonia. The opening work was Beethoven’s dramatic choral work Meersstille und Glückliche Fahrt (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage), a setting of two poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This dramatic performance showed off the wonderful acoustic of the hall to perfection. This was followed by a fine rendition of Fauré’s Pavane in F-sharp minor, Op. 50 in its version for orchestra and choir – another rarity and a piece of great beauty. The first part ended with the soprano Sarah Tynan on stage to perform Mozart’s Laudate Dominum from Vesperae solennes de confessore in C, K339 and Exsultate, jubilate, K165.

The second part opened with a fiery performance of Poulenc’s Concert champêtre with Mahan Esfahani as the soloist. His huge harpsichord , with its open sides, giving a great view of the maestro’s fingering. After an encore, by Henry Purcell, Esfahani left the stage for the final time to rapturous applause. There followed a performance of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 in D major, Op. 25 ‘Classical’, written in loose imitation of the style of Haydn, with a suitably diminished orchestra. The second part closed with a new RNS birthday commission by Errollyn Wallen.

The final part of the concert opened with Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 in D major ‘Le Matin’ that had been written for the small orchestra at the Esterházy court. The final scheduled work in this themed concert was Brahms’ Variations on a theme by Haydn for orchestra, Op. 56a ‘St Anthony Variations‘. To round off a most wonderful evening of celebration and splendid music-making the orchestra performed a section of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV351, accompanied by a fine display of balloons and atmospheric lighting.

It was a privilege to share this event with the Royal National Sinfonia in this wonderful concert hall. If you were not fortunate enough to attend this event then you can listen to it on BBC Radio 3 for the next four weeks – it is well worth the time. Even better take a trip to the Sage Gateshead for one of the future concerts and enjoy the sound of this, sometimes underrated orchestra, performing in their purpose built concert hall.