Forgive me if I continually describe Elgar as a Germanic composer, but I wondered, while listening to the Enigma Variations, how different his music would sound without Brahms and Schumann influences.
But it is precisely its descent from the German romantic tradition that makes it a perfect accompaniment to Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote – the other work on offer tonight – which, of course, germinated from the same seed.
The strikingly obvious similarity between the two works is their strong sense of theme and variation form. In spite of their shared assets, however, the sound worlds of both composers are so incredibly different enough for this programme to maintain interest.
The works were performed by the Hallam Sinfonia with the utmost panache under the baton of Natalia Luis-Bassa, the orchestra demonstrating a clear enjoyment throughout.
They seemed to be inspired particularly during the Strauss, sharing the platform with two prominent soloists, Richard Jenkinson (cello) and Louise Williams (viola). My only regret is that Jenkinson and Williams weren’t more audible, partly on account of the limitations of the venue.
Luis-Bassa delivered a fresh, novel interpretation of the Elgar, the more energetic variations being taken at frantically daring tempi, yet they were always well controlled.
The orchestra excelled in the famous ‘Nimrod’ variation, taken slower than usual, but it still made perfect sense. Following a demanding concert, both for players and listeners, the audience responded enthusiastically.