Alexandre Bloch is a conductor at the start of what promises to be a stellar career. He is young, enthusiastic, energetic and clearly enjoying life. On November 5th he and the Royal Northern Sinfonia were the guests of the Lakeland Sinfonia Concert Society. There were no fireworks; instead we heard Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture and Incidental Music together with Fauré’s Suite: Shylock and his Requiem.
The opening chords of Mendelssohn’s magical score brought immediate realisation that an evening of spell-binding music-making was ahead. Here was an orchestra that, only a few weeks ago, enchanted everybody by the quality of its playing; we instinctively knew, therefore, that Bloch and his colleagues would capture the true Mendelssohnian spirit. Sparkle, virtuosity in every section (especially the woodwinds), effective internal balance (despite a lack of depth in the cello/bass department), close attention to dynamic contrasts, beauty of sound and shape: all were there.
Fauré’s unfamiliar Shylock Suite is a 6-movement delight with mostly gentle scoring and pleasantly colourful, calming and restful textures. The soprano, Malin Christensson, featuring in two pieces, shaped and projected her lines (if not always her words) most clearly and musically.
The Requiem continued the mood of tranquillity and peace. The Sinfonia and Malin Christensson were joined by the baritone, Benjamin Appl and Chorus of the Royal Northern Sinfonia. With Alexandre Bloch directing with imagination and authority, they combined to present a sublime reading. Appl, although rather light-weight for his Libere me solo, sang with assurance and beauty of line. The Chorus were superb; their ten sopranos (choirboy-like in their purity of tone), tenors, basses and altos (all quite magnificent) were not unduly inconvenienced by their far-from-ideal position on stage.
Cantique de Jean Racine (Fauré) – what better choice for an encore? Sheer bliss!