Review: Women centre stage – Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus /Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall

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By Philip Andrews
Thursday, 14 March, 2019, 07:59
Jennifer Pike

Sheffield's ambitious and popular Classical Weekend filled many of the city's venues with music for three days, this year much of it by women.

It was female composers who took centre stage in an eclectic programme of songs from across Europe from our own Philharmonic Chorus on Sunday.

Under conductor Darius Battiwalla they gave sensitive and carefully-balanced accounts of a range of rarely heard pieces, including two by women  - Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann - whose achievements are normally overshadowed by those of their male relatives.

They were joined by soprano Caroline Taylor, who gave impressively clear but delicate interpretations of a trio of reflective songs by the French Boulanger sisters, Lili and Nadia.

And it was Lili who was responsible for the most heart-warming contribution to a cold winter Sunday night, her lively Hymne au Soleil.

Appropriately, Friday was International Women's Day, and the RPO were in town. Although their popular programme was composed entirely by men, it was brought to us by two outstanding female musicians.

Jennifer Pike was the soloist in Mozart's 3rd Violin Concerto, adding an exquisite delicacy to the composer's youthful exuberance, to the delight of a packed house.

The same qualities were evident in Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending as she sent the bird soaring noisily aloft, to almost disappear out of earshot.

The other leading lady was diminutive but demonstrative Estonian conductor Anu Tali, who brought out the best from her band.

That they have a whole range of admirable qualities in all departments was evident in a vibrant performance of Elgar's Enigma Variations which made a very familiar piece sound fresh.

Philip Andrews