Hallé orchestra/Stasevska review – Beethoven’s wit and Sibelius’s passion

Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C, Op 56, known as the Triple Concerto, is often regarded as something of a curiosity, never approaching the stature of his other concertos. Yet, given the pulling power of a starry lineup of soloists, the concerto takes on a particular attraction for audiences. It was interesting enough that the Ukrainian-born Finn, Dalia Stasevska, was conducting the Hallé Orchestra for the first time – her actual debut at Manchester’s Bridgewater in the same programme the previous night – but it was the trio of cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, violinist Hyeyoon Park – replacing the indisposed Nicola Benedetti – and pianist Benjamin Grosvenor who brought in a packed house.

There was certainly no grandstanding, rather they entered it in the intimate spirit of chamber music, with Stasevska helping set this up with an understated opening orchestral exposition. Thematic material, often introduced by the cello and answered by the violin, was most expressively phrased: Kanneh-Mason and Park were well matched in sweetness of tone, with Grosvenor’s crystalline playing adding elegant flourishes to complement the strings. It was in the final Rondo alla Polacca that both the trio and Stasevska showed their instinctive feel for Beethoven, underlining his wit and playfulness as well as musical grace.

The discursiveness of the concerto offered a good contrast with the intense compression of form in Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony. Stasevska’s affinity with its underlying passion and organic flow was manifest, colouring everything so as to effect seamless transitions throughout, the moments of wildness then balanced by grandeur with its own implicit logic. The Hallé, sounding magnificent in this acoustic, were clearly in their element.

Stasevska had preceded the symphony with Andrea Tarrodi’s Paradisfåglar II (Birds of Paradise II), a tone poem embracing Sibelius’s concern for the natural world. Inspired by a BBC Planet Earth film and originally conceived for string orchestra, Tarrodi conjures an avian world with chirruping, fluttering and trilling creating a colourful soundscape. Segueing into the Sibelius without a pause was a daring juxtaposition, moving from an exotic paradise into the stark simplicity of a line rising from a Finnish horizon. Stasevska achieved it all with flair.