Ranging from the great Russian Romantics of the nineteenth century to the most iconic composer of the Soviet era, the Hallé’s 2017-18 season is, in the words of Hallé Music Director Sir Mark Elder, “very much a Russian season, full of contrasts and contradictions.”
The opening programme, under the baton of Pablo González, certainly fits that description, with Rimsky-Korsakov’s richly melodic May Night Overture followed by Tchaikovsky’s mighty Piano Concerto No. 1 (performed by Barry Douglas) and the composer’s symphonic swansong, the ‘Pathétique’ Symphony.
A second all Russian concert features a trilogy of works by Shostakovich conducted by Mark Elder on 18 January. Elsewhere in the season there are two of Rachmaninov’s piano masterpieces: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (with Alexander Gavrylyuk as soloist) and the Third Piano Concerto performed by Boris Giltburg, in a programme which also includes John Adams’s Harmonium. More highlights include Stravinsky’s original ballet scores for Petrushka and The Firebird and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, as well as his Songs and Dances of Death (orchestrated by Shostakovich). Mark Elder conducts Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8, and Carlo Rizzi brings his strong musical insight to Rachmaninov’s emotionally intense Second Symphony. Following the successes of Dvorák’s New World symphony in 2016 and Elgar’s Enigma Variations in early 2017, Gerard McBurney turns to Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony for the Hallé’s latest ‘Beyond the Score’ presentation. This multimedia event uses the whole orchestra, diaries, letters, documentary films and posters from the time to explore the history of this contentious and astonishing piece. There will then be a performance of the work under the baton of Mark Elder, who once again proves his passion for the Soviet musical master.
Moving west from Russia, Mark Elder demonstrates the Hallé’s musical versatility with Verdi’s rarely-performed Four Sacred Pieces and the Overture and Venusberg music from Wagner’s early masterpiece Tannhäuser.
The new season’s impressive roster of pianists also includes Hong Xu with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 18, Charles Owen playing Bach’s Piano Concerto in D minor, and Benjamin Grosvenor with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Having performed Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Orchestra in April 2017, Sunwook Kim returns to play the composer’s first Piano Concerto, the piece which made him the youngest winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2006 under Mark Elder. Kim has recorded both Brahms’s Piano Concertos with Sir Mark and the Hallé. Principal Guest Conductor Ryan Wigglesworth takes to the podium on three occasions with repertoire ranging from Mozart to Mahler, including three movements from his own Shakespeare-based opera The Winter’s Tale, premiered by ENO in February 2017. He also conducts Henning Kraggerud in Beethoven’s much-loved Violin Concerto in D. Henning himself leads a December performance of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons alongside Pachabel’s Canon and Grieg’s Holberg Suite.
The Hallé Youth Orchestra, Hallé Youth Choir and Hallé Children’s Choir take centre stage over the Christmas period with a selection of including Howard Blake’s The Snowman and Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
To bring the season to an exciting end we have the much-anticipated final instalment of the Hallé’s acclaimed Ring cycle. Siegfried, the third part of Wagner’s epic work, is presented over two days with heldentenor Simon O’Neill in the title role and Gerhard Siegel as Mime. In the words of Mark Elder: “Throughout the season, great music and great performances are on offer, before we close with one of Wagner’s greatest masterpieces of music-drama. At long last, we bring our acclaimed ‘Ring’ cycle to a climax with Wagner’s hero Siegfried braving the flames to awaken Brünnhilde. I can’t wait!”