Steve Draper reviews Halle Orchestra at Sheffield City Hall.
“Good God, in what way have we sinned that you should have sent us this scourge,” was the jocular reaction of the horns during the first rehearsal of Strauss’s Don Juan. Actually, the seating arrangement for this performance, with the double basses behind them, helped the balance of the horn sound which is so often overblown because of the acoustics at the City Hall. Happily, this assisted Okko Kamu’s colourful interpretation of the score.
In the old clichéd phrase, a musician ‘announces’ himself to a new audience, but on this occasion it was more that Alexander Gavrylyuk roared, “I’m here,” as he powered his way through Grieg’s Piano Concerto.
“Where’s he from? What nationality is he?” people were asking, but it didn’t matter: the USSR born Australian from the Ukraine endeared himself to as near a sell-out audience as the Halle gets, with delicacy as well as piano-hero machismo. He could have said, “I’ll be back,” a la Schwarzenegger, but instead he encored with the tenderness of Schumann’s Scenes From Childhood.
Then perhaps the horns were exhausted after all, because Sibelius’s Fifth began with some tired intonation. More likely they were saving themselves for the last movement, goaded on by Kamu, to give that bit extra in the brassy climax.