The Hallé performed a programme of music conveying national traditions at the City Hall on Saturday in the Sheffield International Concert Season.
A relatively early work, Sibelius’s tone poem En Saga contains the Finnish folk-like idioms that helped form the composer’s renowned style.
As tempting as it is to over-indulge in interpretations of Sibelius, tonight’s conductor, Rory MacDonald, let the music speak with minimal fuss while injecting a youthful vigour.
The orchestra’s response was atmospheric, with a wide variety of colour, and even light-hearted when required.
Next up was Elgar’s much-loved Cello Concerto. Although the composer’s musical style is often regarded as more Germanic than English, walks through the Sussex countryside inspired him in the work’s completion.
The soloist was Thomas Carroll who is much in demand, and on this showing it is plain to see why. What struck me most was the freshness of his interpretation; instead of aiming to impress, Carroll delivered elegance in his simplicity.
Every note had meaning. But he also executed the more virtuoso passages – in the second movement, for instance – with complete mastery.
Shostakovich’s First Symphony was the final item on the programme. Written at the tender age of nineteen and gaining the composer instant international regard, the work is reflective of the 1920s experimentalism in the Soviet Union.
MacDonald achieved a dark and dramatic reading, with plenty of energetic drive – just what this music requires. Faced with some fiendishly difficult solos, the orchestra were on top form as indeed they were all evening.