The first piece, Finlandia, was executed with great musicality and with a flawless sense of sonority in all its musical colours, as is typical of the Bristol Ensemble – a group that is especially musical and reaches out to audiences brilliantly. Ben Gernon took to the stage with confidence and plenty of expression and freedom in his conducting, which proved effective and clear with the orchestra. The musicians played with technical accuracy and a heightened sense of performance which made the piece a pleasure to listen to amongst its sumptuous string melodies and fortissimo brass calls.
After Finlandia, violinist Chloë Hanslip gave the most fantastic performance of Sibelius’ violin concerto in D minor (op. 47), which proved to be a breathtaking and heart-wrenching performance. The soloist played with technical flawlessness and produced a rich, earthy sound on her 1737 Guarneri del Gesù violin. The first movement was tranquil, emotional and ecstatic in its opening and through the rest of its duration. The orchestra’s interpretation was sonorous and rich. This was then followed by an impassioned interpretation of the second movement, which was well executed both by the soloist and orchestra.
The tempestuous third movement was performed with great passion and true feeling from the Hanslip, which was matched in its bravado by the orchestra. Later on in the third movement, the soloist played with hear-felt emotion and produced a wonderful sound: at times crystalline and at times gritty and stirring. This penetrated the concert hall with its brilliance and passion.
Overall, the concerto was inspiringly performed both by the Bristol Ensemble and by the brilliant Chloë Hanslip. I expect her to become a household name in the near future.
Sibelius’ 5th symphony (op. 82) was heard after the interval. This uplifting piece provided a great contrast against the dark and moving violin concerto which was very well received by the audience. Ben Gernon managed the orchestra beautifully and the musicians played very well. The conductor rose to the occasion with zest and vigour in his free, yet fairly traditional conducting style. Some general slips occurred during the performance of this piece, which were very sparse. However, these did not detract from the musicality of the performance. This piece was well executed and showed the stamina and passion of the musicians, especially the brass, who all delivered this well after playing a difficult and musically exhausting programme.
This concert was thoroughly worth watching, and I highly recommend attending future concerts given by the Bristol Ensemble, Chloë Hanslip, or Ben Gernon.