Halle’s six of the best

Violinist Kuba Jakowicz
Violinist Kuba Jakowicz

WITH priority subscription booking ending tomorrow (Friday), individual concert tickets for the 2011-2012 Sheffield International Concert Season at the City Hall go on general sale this coming Monday.

Again organised by The Hallé, it will be the last with all tickets priced at £15, except the Christmas Concert.

The Hallé itself gives six of the 14 concerts in the season, the first being the opening one on October 7 which reunites the orchestra with the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and former Hallé Choir director James Burton following the performance of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in the 2009-2010 season.

English choral music remains on the agenda with Belshazzar’s Feast by Walton as does Elgar, his concert overture-cum-tone poem In the South, with Copland’s Suite from his Appalachian Spring ballet separating the two works.

The Hallé’s second concert on November 4 sees the only appearance in the season by the orchestra’s music director Sir Mark Elder with a programme of Dvorák’s Serenade for wind, Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto with orchestra principal Gareth Small as soloist, and Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony.

The orchestra’s equally distinguished principal guest conductor Markus Stenz directs them on January 27 when dazzling Chinese pianist Hong Xu is the soloist in Schumann’s Piano Concerto in between performances of symphonies by Mozart: No 29, and Brahms: No 2.

A much better known soloist is in town with the Hallé on February 24 when Nicola Benedetti plays Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the orchestra conducted on this occasion by one of its former assistant conductors, the excellent Rory Macdonald.

Programmed with the Beethoven concerto is a work considered by many to be Dvorák’s finest symphony, his Seventh, and Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute.

Guest conductors are on the podium for the other two Hallé concerts in the season, the first on April 20 being Heinrich Schiff, a very famous cellist turned baton wielder who gets proceedings underway with another famous opera overture, Rossini’s to his last masterpiece William Tell.

Extracts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet score end the concert after brilliant Russian pianist Polina Leschenko, something of a Hallé regular these days, has offered Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto, a less showy work than his first but not short on fireworks.

Nikolaj Znaider, who combines violin playing and conducting with conspicuous success, returns on May 26 to steer the orchestra through the last concert of the season, the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and the most frequently heard Shostakovich symphony, No 5.

Making up the concert is Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder performed by the outstanding Swedish mezzo-soprano Katarina Karnéus, winner of the 1995 Cardiff Singer of the World.

Shostakovich is also heard in the second concert of the season when Barry Douglas returns as the soloist in the composer’s Second Piano Concerto with the Moscow Philharmonic on October 20.

With the orchestra’s regular guest conductor Yuri Botnari at the helm, the concert which also takes Glinka’s Valse-Fantasie, is book-ended by Mussorgsky: Night on a Bare Mountain in Rimsky-Korsakov’s tickled up version and Ravel’s orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition. The Warsaw Philharmonic is here on November 26 with two Brahms Hungarian Dances, No’s 1 and 5, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, Górecki’s Three Pieces in Old Style and Tchaikovsky’s Ukrainian-inspired Second Symphony, the ‘Little Russian’.

Antoni Wit is the well-known conductor and an equally distinguished Polish musician, Kuba Jakowicz, the soloist in the ever-popular Mendelssohn concerto.

Exactly to the day earlier this year, the marvellous Andris Nelsons is back with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on January 13 and another Richard Strauss tone poem and Rachmaninov piano concerto, plus some Brahms this time: St Anthony Chorale Variations.

The Strauss is Also sprach Zarathustra, less ubiquitous now than it was in the aftermath of the release of Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the Rachmaninov is his First Piano Concerto with the under-hyped Stephen Hough.

Rejoining forces 14 days earlier than they did in February this year, the Manchester Camerata and Philharmonic Chorus offer another Requiem setting on February 11, the one by Fauré, plus the composer’s Cantique de Jean Racine in the arrangement of it by John Rutter.

Darius Battiwalla is the conductor and concert is completed with Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for strings from the Camerata directed from the first violin’s chair by Giovanni Guzzo.

Martin Roscoe makes another trip to the city on March 17 to play Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic and its Finnish principal guest conductor John Stogards, Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony and Grieg’s Lyric Suite being elsewhere.

A fortnight later, March 31, the Orchestre National du Capitole Toulouse makes its first appearance in Sheffield with its present music director Tugan Sokhiev and an all-French programme of Debussy’s ‘Afternoon of the Faun’, Saint-Saëns’ Third Violin Concerto and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

The soloist in the popular Saint-Saëns concerto, at least as far as recordings of it go, is the admirable young Russian-born, UK-domiciled violinist Alina Ibragimova. Ensemble 360’s Laurène Durantel became the orchestra’s principal double bass in 2006.

An even younger soloist is heard in Prokofiev’s unusually slow-fast-slow First Violin Concerto on May 11 when Chad Hoopes, an American, plays it with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra – a different band, the Berliner Symphoniker, than the one here three seasons ago, the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester.

Elsewhere in the concert, which is conducted by Alexander Liebreich (much-vaunted artistic director and principal conductor of the Munich Chamber Orchestra) are a couple of overtures, Weber’s to his opera Der Freischutz and Beethoven’s to his Egmont incidental music, and Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony.

The Christmas Concert, on twice at 3pm and 7pm, is on December 10 with the Philharmonic Chorus again joined by the Black Dyke Band but with a new presenter on stage, Look North’s Harry Gration.