Russian music features fairly prominently in the 2018-2019 Sheffield International Concert Season at the City Hall after it gets underway on the 5th of October with the first of six trips across the Pennines by the Hallé.
The Manchester-based orchestra actually gives the second of three all-Russian concerts (18th January) and features Rachmaninov’s multi-faceted Third Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Mussorgsky’s Prelude (Dawn on the Moscow River) to his opera Khovanshchina.
An Italianate tinge may surface every so often as the conductor is the mightily gifted Daniele Rustioni, recipient of the International Opera Award for Best Newcomer of the Year in 2013, the no less gifted Francesca Dego (aka, Mrs Rustioni) being the soloist in the concerto.
Authentic sounds should be guaranteed at the other two all-Russian concerts with the Russian State Symphony Orchestra (18th October) offering Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 2 – the Little Russian, Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite and Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 1.
Yet a third violin concerto, Prokofiev’s No 2, is programmed by the Russian Philharmonic of Novosibirsk (10th May), the Siberian capital, with Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances, Rimsky-Korsakov’s nod to Spain, Capriccio Espanol, and Shostakovich’s Festive Overture.
Two highly rated and much-acclaimed violinists perform the concertos: Chloë Hanslip the Shostakovich, Alexander Sitkovetsky the Prokofiev, and the conductors are Valentin Uryupin and Thomas Sanderling, born in Novosibirsk and son of the legendary Kurt Sanderling.
Also performing music emanating from its own country is the Czech National Symphony Orchestra (30th November), striking up with Smetana’s familiar Overture to The Bartered Bride and rounding off proceedings with the even more familiar Dvořák Symphony No 9 – From the New World.
Still, no orchestra plays Czech music quite like a Czech orchestra and this is an extremely fine one which visited Sheffield in the mid-1990s soon after being established. There is also the bonus of hearing Nikolai Demidenko playing Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1 and the conductor is Heiko Mathias Förster.
You could say the London Mozart Players (1st February) are home ground with the composer’s popular Piano Concerto No 21 and Symphony No 34 programmed for a 70th Birthday Concert under the direction of the orchestra’s conductor laureate Howard Shelley.
First and foremost, though, a much in demand pianist, he is also the soloist in the concerto with Haydn’s Symphony No 95 and a little-known tone poem for strings by Joaquín Turina making up the concert.
Three other celebrated concerto pianists appear at Hallé concerts, not least Benjamin Grosvenor with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 2 when the orchestra is confronted by a fiery young Hungarian conductor, Gergely Madaras, at the last concert in the season (7th June).
Mahler’s Symphony No 1 and Mozart’s Overture to Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Il Seraglio) make up the programme and it is orchestral excerpts from opera that fill out the concert when Francesco Piemontesi performs Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto (9th November).
Sir Mark Elder is the conductor and elsewhere is Weber’s Overture to Oberon and a sizeable chunk of Wagner: the Preludes to Act 1 and Act 3 from Lohengrin and a ‘suite’ from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg – just about possible to cobble one!
Brahms’ Haydn Variations and Nielsen’s warlike Fifth Symphony bookend Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 22 from emergent young Russian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov and the Hallé under the baton of well thought of German-born conductor Johannes Debus (22nd March).
A fourth formidable violinist, Jennifer Pike, performs Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 3 and Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending at a Royal Philharmonic Orchestra concert (8th March) which begins with Sibelius: Finlandia, and ends with Elgar: Enigma Variations.
The conductor is Estonian ‘maestress’ – in the absence of a female term for maestro! – Anu Tali.
Two well-known concertos are heard in the remaining two Hallé concerts: Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Dvořák’s Cello Concerto.
The first (16th February) is sandwiched between de Falla’s El amor brujo (Love, the Magician) and Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 with the orchestra’s outstanding principal clarinet Sergio Castelló López as the soloist and a Mexican conductor of some note, Carlos Miguel Prieto.
The Dvořák is in the season’s opening concert (5th October) and is performed by the 2012 BBC Young Musician of Year, Laura van der Heijden with the eminent German maestro Karl-Heinz Steffens conducting. Brahms: Symphony No 4 and Sibelius: Lemminkä¡nen’s Return, are elsewhere.
Christmas Concert aside (15th December), the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus’ main involvement in the season is Bach’s B minor Mass (6th April) with the Royal Northern Sinfonia under the baton of Andrew Griffiths, a young conductor of considerable talent – it is said!
Admission prices remain unchanged, which means the top priced ticket for individual concerts is a bargain £21 for concerts of this calibre. It becomes 30% cheaper with a full season subscription, 20% with a 10-concert subscription and 10% with a 5-concert subscription.