Sheffield Rep. Orchestra is a chamber orchestra made up of professional players, talented amateurs and some of the finest performers to graduate from the University of Sheffield.
Under the baton of conductor George Morton, they are developing a reputation for programming exciting, accessible, quality concerts.
In Janáček’s Suite for Strings: a six-movement work written when the composer was just 23, the orchestra found some wonderful colours in the opening movement, dark and stormy during the opening gestures; lightly shimmering as the music developed.
The second movement suffered from a few technical issues, but was beautiful nonetheless while the third, marked Andante con moto, is perhaps the least interesting movement, compositionally.
However, the players managed to find drama and passion amid the rather conventional, unimaginative writing, before the fourth movement which was fantastic; energetic, full of detail and intelligently balanced.
Natalie Halliday’s beautiful cello solo was the focal point of the fifth movement; an intense yet restful Adagio, and the sixth – somewhat reminiscent of Janáček’s mentor Dvořák – was a full-blooded, rousing finale with the orchestra suitably aggressive and resonant.
Mendelssohn’s Capriccio Brillante, a single-movement work for orchestra and piano featuring Hannah Donkin as soloist, is a technically demanding piece requiring the pianist to perform scales, arpeggios and other flamboyant gestures at lightning-speed.
Donkin was excellent, eliciting some beautiful sonorities from the rather dilapidated piano, and the orchestra was equally admirable; powerful and punchy when required.
Morton’s command of his players was particularly noticeable in Haydn’s Symphony No. 48 in C Maria Theresia. He is an expressive, communicative conductor, with a good ear for contrast and detail.
The final movement was the highlight of the symphony. Marked allegro, it was accurate and vigorous, with a good sense of pace and I thoroughly enjoyed my first Sheffield Rep. concert. It was a well-programmed and performed with passion.