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The Romantic Symphony No 3, The Northern Sinfonia, The Sage Gateshead
The third concert in the Romantic series at the Sage Gateshead, taking in the symphonies of Brahms and Schumann, reaffirmed the passionate relationship between maestro Thomas Zehetmair and The Northern Sinfonia.
Zehetmair strode to the podium with purpose, barely pausing to take his place, before launching into a dynamic account of Brahms’ Third Symphony.
The symphony, Brahms’ shortest, is built around the keys F-A-F Frei aber froh, or Free but Happy; and variations on the theme were elucidated brilliantly throughout.
Zehetmair established a lovely ebb and flow with lush string playing under leader Bradley Creswick.
The Andante featured exquisite playing from the woodwinds, as clarinetist James Burke, oboist Steve Hudson and horn player Peter Francombe took up the themes in turn.
In the ensuing movement, the yearning cello melody had a lovely lilt.
Zehetmair zipped through the Allegro, before ending it in a sea of reflective calm.
Schumann’s Third in E Flat “Rhenish” is steeped in the Rhine heartland he so loved.
The opening movement pulsated with energy, as Zehetmair developed the intricate theme with a translucent clarity. The rustic folk melodies of the Scherzo were lithe and fresh.
Schumann was inspired by the ceremonial elevation of Cologne Cathedral’s archbishop to include a fifth movement, in advance of the finale.
Called Feirlich – solemnly – its contrasts to the rest of the work.
Zehetmair’s paced the steady progress of its phrases with painstaking care, revealing deep undercurrents, as it flowed to an inexorable finality.
A sprightly finale drew the work and evening to a close.
Principal cellist Louisa Tuck summed up everyone’s sentiments when she tweeted afterward: “I Love Thomas Zehetmair. Look, there, I’ve said it. He’s A-mazing.”