Aberdeen has been without its beloved Music Hall for two years due to a £9 million restoration. Accessibility has been a large consideration of the renovation. Works have included significant excavations and interventions to improve access from street to seat and there is now ramped access to the left of the iconic columns. The foyer is sharp, just the same but confidently clean and fresh, sporting neoclassical elements which are as crisp as royal icing.
The auditorium is also refreshed and elegantly muted in contemporary grey. There is new flooring, staging, seating and decoration. And of course, there are all the things the audience cannot see such as repairs to the roof, wiring, plumbing and new facilities backstage.
As uncertainty hovers in so many spheres of political and financial life it is relaxing, rewarding and restorative to sit back and enjoy the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra deliver a programme of Prokofiev, Greig and Sibelius. From the opening bars of Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite, Op. 60 it’s clear significant effort has been made to retain the Hall’s marvellous acoustics. The Troika or sleigh ride is deliciously festive.
The highly prized Freddy Kempf delivers a masterful performance of Greig’s dramatic Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16. The opening bars are so familiar, perhaps thanks to Morecambe and Wise’s enduringly funny sketch from 1971, but it is riveting to be reminded of the whole piece and Kempf and conductor, Alpesh Chauhan, collaborate beautifully. The reception is resounding.
After the interval, which is another opportunity to enjoy reworked public spaces such as the new Coda Cafe Bar, the BBC Symphony Orchestra come into their own as Chauhan leads them in Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43 and it is a perfect programming choice for the occasion. Each section of the orchestra is showcased and every musician appears to be playing just for Chauhan. The energy of the music seems to travel from the orchestra up into the dais and through his body to be cast back out for them, and us, to enjoy. It is a triumphant conclusion to the evening. This is a very special night in the cultural history of Aberdeen. May the Music Hall stand for another two hundred years and beyond!
Details of upcoming events at the Music Hall are available, as well as information about creative learning opportunities in the new Tutti studio, along with more in-depth exploration of the transformation.
Tonight’s concert was recorded by BBC Radio 3 and will be available for broadcast on Thu 20 Dec at 7:30 pm and for the following 30 days via BBC Sounds.