sat 13/07/2024

Grosvenor, Kanneh-Mason, Park, Hallé, Stasevska, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - the factors that make for a full house | reviews, news & interviews

Grosvenor, Kanneh-Mason, Park, Hallé, Stasevska, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - the factors that make for a full house

Grosvenor, Kanneh-Mason, Park, Hallé, Stasevska, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester review - the factors that make for a full house

Solo fireworks from a starry line-up and a very fine conductor in action

On the same sphere: Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Hyeyoon Park and Benjamin Grosvenor in Beethoven's Triple Concerto with the Hallé OrchestraBill Lam, the Hallé

What makes a classical box office draw these days? If there were a simple answer to that question, a lot of concert givers would be laughing all the way to the bank.

Is it recognisability – artists whose names are familiar from big-viewing TV events such as The Last Night of the Proms, or composer names that people feel are “safe”, like Beethoven and Sibelius, or even particular works that get a lot of airplay on Classic FM? Is it a sense of value for money, so three soloists for the ticket price of one sounds like a good deal (this could be very persuasive for us Northerners, being careful with our brass)? Or maybe just going outside normal scheduling routines: there aren’t many classical concerts in Manchester on a Friday night right now, and it is the start of the weekend and a chance to get out and enjoy something?

It could be a combination of all those that resulted in a crowded house at the Bridgewater Hall last night: more seats filled than I’ve seen for anything for a long time. And they were there to enjoy – there was a buzz in the atmosphere before it even began.

Dalia Stasevska conducting the Halle OrchestraThe Hallé management may feel gratified by the results of their foresight and imagination. Sheku Kanneh-Mason was making his debut with them, and Benjamin Grosvenor was making a welcome return; Nicola Benedetti was to have joined them for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, but was unwell so her place was taken by Hyeyoon Park at short notice. The conductor, Dalia Stasevska, principal guest of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (also making her Hallé debut, pictured) presided over the Proms Last Night last year, and this concert was briskly booked months ago.

How did the music fulfil those expectations? Sibelius’ Karelia Suite was a good place to start, the rhythms of the outer movements bouncing along (and there was a nicely atmospheric opening to the first that caught attention immediately), so Stasevska had the audience engaged from the off. The central Ballade was precise and translucent.

The Beethoven had a slightly indistinct beginning from the depths of the orchestra, but soon clearer articulation and a consequently rewarding sense of life and enjoyment became apparent – and a touch of ferocity from the trio was their way to negotiate the sequence-laden central section. Stasevska knew exactly how she wanted to handle the trickier bits of the piece, and whipped up the close of the movement enough to gain applause for it alone.

The three soloists were in balance and on the same sphere, Kanneh-Mason’s cello singing like a nightingale at the opening of the slow movement, and Park’s violin emulating him in turn. The finale was dispatched with panache and some dazzling soloistic display: perhaps it all goes to show that the old-fashioned attractions of virtuosity and suavity in style have not lost their effectiveness.

The concert’s second part was introduced by a short work by the Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi (in its 2013 revision): Birds of Paradise II. It’s colourful, sound-effect-y writing, with bird and tropical forest noises a-plenty as it proceeds. Most striking of all is that, though Tarrodi’s style is fundamentally tonal, she derives such an unusual range of sounds from an orchestra that it seems utterly contemporary.

Stasevska seguéd straight from that into Sibelius’ Symphony No. 7, as if the 21st century piece were meant simply as a prelude to the older music’s 20-minute single-movement structure. Perhaps it gave it enviable stature. An alumna of the Sibelius Academy, she knows the Finnish master’s last numbered symphony intimately. There was passion and a sense of thrill in the tonal quality she obtained from the Hallé strings in the long opening Adagio, and she controlled the tempo changes in its long acceleration faultlessly. 

The symphony builds to a single, massive high point, which was so eloquently done that the music following it caught a sense of sorrow and regret without the need for any histrionics, and then there was still gas in the tank for a final surge of triumph and affirmation.

Perhaps it all goes to show that the old-fashioned attractions of virtuosity and suavity in style have not lost their effectiveness


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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I attended this concert along with friend who made the journey from Scotland hoping for a glorious triple concerto, I have to say it was disappointing. Sheku Kanneh-Mason' cello was all but inaudible throughout the majority of the piece so impossible to comment on his contribution... The Hallé/conductor didn't fair too well in the Beethoven either.. The Sibelius 7 was an improvement but really didn't make up for what was, on the whole, a lacklustre evening. I attend a lot of concerts at the Bridgewater Hall and various other venues, the Shostakovich symphony 13 on the previous night with BBC Phil was head and shoulders above the Hallé performance, sad as that's not usually the case!

I totally disagree with the above review. I was very disappointed in Kanneh-Mason’s cello playing. His cello could barely (often not) be heard alongside the piano or violin and was drowned out by the orchestra. I travelled from Scotland as Beethoven’s triple concerto is a masterpiece in my view. I returned very disappointed and was not the only one. I’ll search out a more experienced live performer next time

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