Charles Pope Jr,, 20th November 2014

“Opening and closing with stunning presentations of Britten and Hindemith, this week’s subscription concert by the National Arts Centre Orchestra was arguably the most vibrant to date in NACO’s forty-fifth season. Major credit goes to yet another rising UK conductor, Michael Francis, who commanded the orchestra with subtlety and aplomb from the first note of Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, scored solely for strings. The performance displayed exceptional transparency and dynamic range through the elegantly plaintiff harmonics of the fourth variation, Romance, the atypical rhythms of the sixth, Bourrée classique, the satanic brio of the eighth, Moto Perpetuo, and the pizzicato double bass crescendo of the ninth, Funeral March. The climactic Fugue and Finale was breathtaking, a virtuoso performance from every player on stage and the kind which happens only when a superb conductor is in charge.

Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphoses of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, using the full ensemble, brought the same rarefied finesse to the opening Allegro and to the Scherzo [additionally titled Turandot and derived from the Carlo Gozzi play which also inspired the Puccini opera] which concludes with a delicate fugue. The Andantino then final March are further characterized by Hindemith’s unique sense of evolving tonalities and concurrent melodic development. The constant dialogue within dense orchestration, especially percussion, was featured with particular brilliance…

…Hopefully, he’ll be a regular guest on NACO’s podium in future seasons.”