It is at its best in bold, swaggering melodic lines. Call for too much agility and it rebels, while delicacy is way beyond its rather digestive low register. But as well as the sound, its accident-prone nature gives performances an extra frisson, lost when technology makes the going easier. It certainly revitalised Hummel's amiable string of cribs from Mozart symphonies and piano concertos - having surpassed himself in a slow movement theft as outrageous as one of Poulenc's, the composer found his own voice only in the perky finale.
Cherubini's Anacreon overture, which opened the concert, had come up with something straight out of the Beethoven Eroica Symphony, but that must have been coincidence - they were writing the works simultaneously. In any case, Cherubini had a suave voice of his own, and his overture made a fine vehicle straight away for the Hanover Band's characterful woodwind, graced with a particularly persuasive bassoon. The French flavour about this buoyant playing, reinforced by sweetly lyrical violins, came into its own with a fresh-as-new Invitation to the Dance. Berlioz's scoring of the Weber waltz drew an ovation even before the music finished - the conductor, Roy Goodman, had to go on with the poetic quiet ending as if it were an extra piece.
The Eroica itself, elegant and alert, made a refreshing rebuttal of the aggressive, even violent Beethoven that other period-instrument orchestras go for. Speeds were quick, rhythms decisive, but the face rarely wore a frown: Beethoven treated as honorary Frenchman. The Funeral March began with a quiet fluency which made its gradual build-up of intensity all the more affecting, and the deft closing movements also gathered force without over- emphasis. Even so, an urge had been growing to hear these players take their flair and their vivid tone-colours to something quite different: the ballets of Delibes and his contemporaries, full of delicious orchestral touches that cry out for period-style treatment to free them from the stigma of theatre-pit routine.
That was not to be: an encore followed, but it was the finale of Haydn's Symphony No 99, played if anything more robustly than the Beethoven. Goodman prefaced it with a tongue-in-cheek comment about audiences taking their Grade Eight examination in applause, then proceeded to trick them all over again into clapping at the false ending two-thirds of the way through. He turned to the promenaders with a gleeful grin as he conducted the next, whimsical phrases: even Haydn's jokes rarely come off so well.Reuse content