Halle well prepped for season launch


Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 11:51 am
Updated Saturday, 28th September 2019, 8:57 am
Klaus Makela
Klaus Makela

Youth was at the helm for the launch of the new Sheffield International Concert Season.

Indeed, both piano soloist Vikingur Olafsson and conductor Klaus Makela looked like preppy American college boys from the 1960s in their matching sharp suits, swot's spectacles and neat haircuts, but there was ample maturity about their contributions to the evening’s first part.

The Icelandic soloist brought a delicate balance of flamboyance and thoughtfulness to Beethoven's 1st Piano Concerto, confidently seizing the initiative from the orchestra before handing it back with a flourish. His close cadenza work was mesmerising and breathtaking before a jaunty and memorable close.

One could never accuse Shostakovich, whose 5th Symphony filled the second half of jauntiness. If you did not know the piece was written in Stalinist Russia it would not be hard to work it out. It is gloomy, militaristic and dour. It was written after criticism that his work was becoming decadently Western. Now here he is, toeing the party line again.

The orchestra is large and contains so many different instruments, including celeste, harps, snare drums, a gong and other forms of percussion, that it almost sounds like a Soviet job-creation scheme.

Under the Finnish conductor’s sensitive direction, the Halle handled the dynamics, the frequent solo interventions and changes of mood well, especially in the most delicate of violin passages.

Philip An drews