The four works on this Friday night programme would not typically be expected to sell out Bridgewater Hall, though clearly a starry trio of soloists proved to make all the difference in bringing in a huge audience including a large number of children. After an intimate account of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, a superbly constructed second half made this a memorable evening.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Hyeyoon Park and Benjamin Grosvenor
© Bill Lam | The Hallé

Before the first notes of the Triple Concerto had even sounded, Dalia Stasevska had clearly stamped her authority on the performance: gone was the antiphonal violin seating customary for this orchestra, and whereas The Hallé has, in recent years, played Beethoven with reduced string sections and period timpani, here we saw a full section of 50 and modern instruments all round. This set the tone for an approach which was generally big-boned, old-fashioned Beethoven: muscular, though never flabby, with ample vibrato and subtle tempo variations above a robust foundation provided by gutsy second horn and bassoon playing. The three soloists brought a strong sense of intimacy to the front of the stage, playing and smiling to one another as if they had been doing so for many years. Violinist Hyeyoon Park, standing in for an unwell Nicola Benedetti, was by the far the most expressive and also seemed to have the most fun.

After a stormy first movement, propelled by dark urgency in Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s cello playing amid explosive orchestral interjections, the trio interacted elegantly with meditative warmth in the brief slow movement. The finale fizzed with energy amid flurries of triplet figures, Park’s rich tone and Kanneh-Mason’s control perfectly balanced to Benjamin Grosvenor’s carefully phrased piano lines. Stasevska, meanwhile, cleanly translated all the nuances of chamber-style rubato to the rest of the orchestra. An exotically chromatic arrangement of Danny Boy was a well-received encore.

The Hallé in Bridgewater Hall
© Bill Lam | The Hallé

After the interval, Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi’s Birds of Paradise II provided a complete change of sound world, making a perfect aperitif to Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony. The short work, originally written for string orchestra in 2008 before being fully orchestra five years later, was inspired by the BBC’s Planet Earth series. It provides a very visual description of the titular birds, full of unusual orchestra colours and effects. Ricocheting birdcalls from all corners of the stage set up a convincing sense of jungle immersion.

Dalia Stasevska
© Bill Lam | The Hallé

Sibelius’ Seventh followed directly without any pause for applause, in a brilliant manoeuvre of concert planning which seemed to link the two works closely. At the very top of the programme, Stasevska had successfully uncovered a wealth of detail in the same composer’s familiar Karelia Suite; here, she did much the same, all the while maintaining a gripping dramatic arc across this most tautly composed of symphonies. The organic ebb and flow of the long string lines was supported by stirringly beautiful high viola playing, and Katy Jones’ trombone solo was richly noble without ever threatening to break out of the greater texture. Beautiful, monumental, fleet-footed and anguished in turn, the symphony unwound with compelling narrative. The final pages ultimately burned with a glowing intensity to round off a hugely satisfying programme for which the orchestra must be applauded for bringing to such a huge and diverse audience.