Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Sparkling Finale Heralds a New Era; the Classical Season Reached a Sparkling Finale at Sage Gateshead and a New Era Beckons, as DAVID WHETSTONE Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Sparkling Finale Heralds a New Era; the Classical Season Reached a Sparkling Finale at Sage Gateshead and a New Era Beckons, as DAVID WHETSTONE Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE

SUNDAY night saw an ending and a beginning at Sage Gateshead and, as often happens when currents converge, it was an effervescent affair.

An appealing programme, a conductor stretching every sinew and an orchestra with a palpable determination to please ensured a pin-drop atmosphere in Hall One.

With the fourth symphonies of Schumann and Brahms respectively, Northern Sinfonia brought down the curtain on its Romantic Symphony series.

The Schumann in particular, less well known than the work of his younger protege, was delivered with exemplary pizzazz.

A great performance, it seems to me, can be judged on silences. Here, the void between final note and rapturous applause seemed to allow for a collective sharp intake of breath.

Following their exertions, the musicians were smiling - another good sign.

All at the Sage speak glowingly of Thomas Zehetmair and if you're a bit mystified by the role of the conductor, this concert went some way towards explaining it.

Even with his back to us, you could see the Austrian encouraging, cajoling, embodying the sound. Baton in his right hand, he used his left to describe the desired musical effect.

Like a motorcyclist leaning into bends, Zehetmair guides his orchestra smoothly to its destination.

It was telling that, after dutifully rising to their feet three times to acknowledge the applause, the players finally ignored the man with the baton, meaning he alone was forced to receive his just deserts.

This concert also marked the end of the 2012/13 classical season at the Sage and offered a taste of the next, Zehetmair's 12th and last as music director.

Anthony Sargent, general director of Sage Gateshead, paid tribute, saying Zehetmair - in post longer than any predecessor - had given the orchestra "stylistic authority over an extraordinary range of music" and an "edge-of-the-seat virtuosity". …

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