Review: Hallé Orchestra ***

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Sheffield City Hall

Here, Ludwig, are you deaf or something? You don’t need four horns. Not at Sheffield City Hall anyway – the sound bounces off the back of the stage and hits you straight in the left ear; or the right, depending on where you’re sitting.

If the orchestra, quite correctly for a classical symphony, has a reduced number of strings and woodwind, the effect is even more pronounced. If it is a very familiar and very well-loved masterpiece like The Eroica, the effect is like meeting one’s hero, perhaps the hero of the symphony’s dedication, sadly disfigured in some way. And if it is a top orchestra like the Hallé, with a world-class conductor like Sir Mark Elder, the dashing of expectations is enough to ruin an evening.

Fortunately, there wasn’t quite such a problem in Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, given a stirring outing here by Gareth Small – it only has two horns.

And would you believe it? The jewel of the evening was Dvorak’s Serenade for Ten Wind Instruments, neatly and sensitively marshalled by the Hallé’s assistant conductor, Andrew Gourlay. This piece has three horns, but they were sitting centre stage.

So what’s to be done? Perhaps Sir Mark could come and listen from the circle when he’s next in town.

The Hallé plays Leeds Town Hall tomorrow night, 7.30pm. 0113 224 3801.