‘A vigorous work-out of Haydn symphonies’ is how The Times described OAE’s opening concert of the Southbank 2009-10 season.  At dawn, a couple of days later, the 42 players checked in at Heathrow for a repeat of the all-Haydn programme in Cologne, some still jet-lagged after recent flights from Montreal (Yannick), Sydney (Nancy) and Kathmandu (Jan).  Neal’s flute had disappeared after the London concert, but Lisa has kindly loaned him another instrument until his turns up.

In Cologne Yannick leapt onto the platform of the Philharmonie, sporting a new ‘Nightshift’ T-shirt (what on earth does the pink shrimp-like logo represent?).  He carefully adjusted the balance of the orchestra in the hall’s lively acoustic, in which the ‘military’ percussion sounded magnificent.  Our special guests were Nick Ormerod on cymbals, John Rockcliffe on bass drum, and Nigel Shipway playing a ‘period’ triangle (all pictured below) – rare additions to OAE’s usual classical line-up, since only Haydn’s Military Symphony and the Turkish music in Mozart’s Seraglio call for these instruments.

The concert got off to a great start: in the slow movement of the Surprise Symphony Yannick dared the first violins to play the opening theme more quietly than anyone thought possible so that the fortissimo ‘surprise’ chord had maximum impact.  The audience responded enthusiastically.  After the Trumpet Concerto there were calls for an encore, so David Blackadder repeated the finale to everyone’s delight, his tartan waist-coat clearly an added bonus to his virtuosity.  The Military and London Symphonies were brilliantly moulded by Yannick, whose exuberant energy left the audience and orchestra breathless by the end of the concert.

For the orchestra, a unique pleasure of a Philharmonie concert is being greeted, as we come off stage, by a very welcome glass of cold beer.  Grolsch was freely offered all round, and players chatted with friends and stayed until late.  It was a fine way to celebrate a memorable concert.

Katharine Hart, Viola

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