‘Beautifully and intricately rendered by the choir’

Sheffield Telegraph, Thursday 14 November 2019.

Halle Orchestra/Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus. Sheffield City Hall

The first thing the soloist in Grieg’s Piano Concerto must do is get past Morecambe and Wise’s famous comic skit on the opening bars, with Andre Previn conducting, and start playing all the right notes in the right order.

No problem for young British pianist Andrew Tyson, whose strident, impassioned approach left us in no doubt that this is serious, emotional stuff, and the Halle, under Grieg’s Norwegian compatriot Tabita Berglund, responded in kind.

She is a slender, petite figure who dictates changes in dynamics and pace, and the balance between soloist and orchestra, with no more than delicate sweeps of her arms, but it works.

Just as well, because these skills were again in demand in the programme’s other big work, the Finnish composer Sibelius’ First Symphony. Despite comparisons with Tchaikovsky, this is a rather unfocussed and sometimes frenetic piece which, from the long, haunting opening on the clarinet to the scampering runs of the third movement, never really settles down.

The Scandinavian theme continued in Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus’ After Hours Concert which followed, but with the emphasis moving from the secular to the spiritual.

This was another example of the Phil’s adventurous programming under musical director Darius Battiwalla – mainly absorbing and accessible contemporary pieces by composers of whom most of the capacity audience in the City Hall ballroom had never heard.

The standout was a shimmering version of Amazing Grace by Latvian Eriks Esenvalds, hugely atmospheric and beautifully and intricately rendered by the choir.

They segued seamlessly from English into Latin for two pieces by Norwegian Ola Gjeilo before ending as they had begun with more Grieg, showing they could even sing in Norwegian and that he could write wonderfully for voices as well as instruments.

Philip Andrews Sheffield Telegraph Thursday 14 November 2019