2017/ 18 Sheffield International Concert Season – 1

Marche Écossaise; Marche écossaise sur un theme populaire to give it its full title, is not the first piece of music you would think of if asked to name a work by Debussy.

In fact, it has what can be called quiet popularity, although in all likelihood has never been heard in Sheffield before, at least the orchestral version.

On the 29th of September, ‘Scottish March on a Popular Theme’ (circa, seven minutes) is the first work heard when the 2017/ 18 Sheffield International Concert Season opens at the City Hall.

Debussy was on the breadline in 1891 so when a Scottish general commissioned him to write a march based on traditional melody of the Ross clan he readily agreed.

A four-handed piano piece in its original form, the much more solvent composer orchestrated it in 1908.

Nothing remotely unfamiliar about the work that follows, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 with Alexander Gavrylyuk as soloist, before Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé end proceedings with Stravinsky’s Firebird score.

Scotland and ballet figure in the following concert (12th October) from the Royal Northern Sinfonia under the baton of distinguished Baroque specialist Paul McCreesh.

The nearest he gets to the period, though, is the ensuing Classical era: Haydn’s Cello Concerto No 1 with the highly thought of Guy Johnston and Mozart, the rarely heard ballet music from his opera Idomeneo – not ballet as the brochure blurb can be construed as suggesting!

Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3, the Scottish, which he actually christened Scotch, posterity changing it, as it has nothing to do with Scotland’s famed alcoholic distilment, completes the evening.

We are definitely in the realms of ballet: an unspecified suite from Prokofiev’s Cinderella and Ravel’s Daphis et Chloé Suite No 2, when the Brussels Philharmonic pays a visit (11th November), the orchestra having had three previous names since its formation in 1935.

Preceding them is another ‘stranger’, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Passchendaele, a multi-textured First World War commemorative piece premiered in 2014, followed by the regularly encountered (to say the least!) Violin Concerto No 1 by Bruch – the famous one!

The orchestra’s principal conductor Stéphane Denève is the podium and the soloist in Bruch, Nikolaj Znaider.

The Hallé has a further concert before the end of the year (8th December) and there is yet more unfamiliarity among the offerings, at least as far as Sheffield concert audiences are concerned: Respighi’s The Fountains of Rome.

Celebrated Italian maestro Carlo Rizzi is the conductor and follows it with something everyone knows by another fellow countryman, Rossini’s William Tell Overture, before moving on to Rachmaninov’s monumentally lush Symphony No 2.

The popular annual Christmas Concert with the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus and, yet again, the famous Black Dyke Band, takes place the following week (16th December).

Concerts in the rest of season – eight of them – will be expounded on nearer the time it recommences in the New Year.

Tasters include, Delius: Paris: The Song of a Great City; Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No 1; Mussorgsky/ Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition. The Hallé/ Sir Mark Elder, Alisa Weilerstein: cello, on the 19th of January.

Khachaturian: Masquerade Suite; Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No 1; Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4. Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra/ Valery Polyansky, Alexander Sitkovetsky: violin, on the 3rd of March.

Debussy: Children’s Corner; Schumann: Piano Concerto; Stravinsky: Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1947); Debussy: La Mer. City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/ Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla, Rudolf Buchbinder: piano, on the 16th of March.

Mahler: Symphony No 2 ‘Resurrection’. Bruckner Orchester Linz/ Markus Poschner, Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, on the 5th of May.