The youthful Richard Strauss wrote his first Horn Concerto for his father, a professional horn player, but after a bit of practice dad decided it was too difficult and passed it on to someone else to give the first performance.
No such problems for soloist Laurence Rogers, who deftly surmounted its complexities, right through to the tricky and speedy finale, in what has now become a standard for the instrument.
And there could be no better measure of his skills than that it was the accompanying Halle Orchestra’s own brass section which led the well-deserved applause.
This was followed by Sibelius’ Second Symphony, a work which has come to symbolise the stubborn resistance of the composer’s Finnish compatriots to the Russian domination of their country.
The first movement’s mixture of quiet stoicism and oppressive foreboding eventually gives way to a triumphant conclusion, a progression handled with sensitivity and precision by conductor Jonathon Heyward.
He had already demonstrated this expressive handling of orchestral forces in the evening’s opening piece, a selection from Grieg’s Peer Gynt. Old chestnuts they may be, but under Heyward’s baton the familiar came over as bright and fresh as ever.
* Next in the Sheffield International Concert series at the City Hall is on March 3 with the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Valery Polyansky.