The Northern Chamber Orchestra – the oldest professional chamber ensemble in the North West – has got big plans for its return to the stage. An extensive 2021-22 season will see the NCO collaborate with a host of international classical music stars, from violinist Chloë Hanslip to cellist Raphael Wallfisch, in concerts spanning Manchester and Cheshire.
The first concert features pianist Steven Osborne, who joins the orchestra at The Stoller Hall on 26 September. Winner of the 2013 RPS Instrumentalist of the Year, Scotland-born Steven Osborne is widely celebrated for his insightful interpretations, his musicality and technique. Described by The Observer as “always a player in absolute service to the composer”, he’s particularly praised for his interpretations of Beethoven – a composer we’ll hear much of tonight.
Sometimes overshadowed by the legendary Third and the dah-dah-dah-dah familiarity of the Fifth, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 is nevertheless a stunning work by a composer at the height of his powers. It ranges wildly in character, by turns serious, high-spirited and playful. Among the symphony’s highlights is the boisterous Scherzo, filled with delightful syncopation, sudden harmonic and dynamic shifts, and a merry-go-round of spritely melodies. The Adagio second movement, meanwhile, is a thing of tender beauty. “Only amongst the giants of poetic art”, Hector Berlioz wrote of this movement’s final moments, “can we find anything to compare with this sublime page”.
Composed in the same year, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 is perhaps the most gentle and poetic of all of his concertos, and yet, beginning, as it does, with the piano alone, it is also one of his most radical. “It was with the Fourth Concerto, in G major, that the ultimate of condensation, of unity with the solo exposition, of imagination, and of discipline was attained,” wrote the pianist Glenn Gould. Expressive playing lies at the heart of the work, and we look forward to hearing how it unfolds in the hands of Osborne.
Completing the programme is a new work by James Manson, who is not only the NCO’s principal bass (a position he’s occupied since 1989), but also its Composer in Residence. This new piece will be Manson’s fourth to be performed by the ensemble.
As with all of the Stoller Hall concerts in the NCO’s 2020-21 season, this concert will be recorded for online streaming, available to view an unlimited amount of times during the week commencing 27 September.