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Music review: The Hallé, St David’s Hall, Cardiff

23 May 2023 4 minute read
Photo by ell brown is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Peter Collins

It was never in doubt that this was going to be a sell-out concert. The “dream team” of Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Benjamin Grosvenor and Nicola Benedetti playing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto was guaranteed to have music lovers queuing at the box office.

The demand for tickets was such that my usual seat in the stalls was unavailable and instead I found myself sitting behind the stage.

The last time I sat in this part of the hall I was young and easy and new to the joyous experience of classical music concerts. It seemed rather more cramped in these seats than I remembered. Alas, I fear this was due to my increased bulk rather than any alteration to the seating arrangements.

In those early days, men would attend major concerts such as this in their best suits, while women would appear in fine dresses or evening gowns.

Today, jeans and T-shirts are deemed acceptable. On this occasion some people wore shorts and even brought pints of lager into the hall. This is surely out of order.

Eleventh hour

Unfortunately, Nicola Benedetti had to pull out of the “dream team” due to illness. A smiling Ms Benedetti appeared on the cover of the concert programme, but it was the smiling South Korean violinist Hyeyoon Park who appeared on stage, having stepped in at the eleventh hour.

The three musicians were given an enthusiastic reception as they walked on stage with Dalia Stasevska, conductor of The Hallé.

The piece began well enough, but as it continued one felt that something was missing. It was difficult to identify what was lacking, but it all seemed a bit flat.

This was all the more surprising since the three supremely talented musicians have performed this piece together before. Indeed, Grosvenor and Park have toured together, being described as “a world class duo.”

Each musician displayed individual flashes of brilliance. Park’s vibrant playing had an urgency about it which contrasted well with the plaintive playing of Kanneh-Mason and the sparkling sound of Grosvenor on the piano.

But rarely did it come together in a satisfying whole. Despite the famous names it was a little disappointing. But what do I know? The vast majority of the audience had no doubts, they loved it.


The concert began and ended with Sibelius. The opening piece was the Karelia Suite, the Finnish composer’s Opus 11 written at the beginning of his compositional career.

The closing piece was his one-movement  Symphony No 7, his Opus 105 and his final published symphony.

The contrast between the two was pretty stark. The Karelia Suite is fresh and imaginative, having about it a sense of wonder at the beauty of the world.

All that has largely disappeared by the time we get to the seventh symphony. The ravages of life have taken their toll.

Both pieces were wonderfully performed by The Hallé. Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska has a deep understanding of and affinity for the music of her fellow Finn.

One of the benefits of sitting behind the stage is that one can look at the conductor face to face.

Stasevska has a muscular, authoritative conducting style, but it is also her facial expressions which communicate to her musicians exactly what she wants from them.


It was interesting that Stasevska linked the Sibelius symphony with a piece called Birds of Paradise, by Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi.

The tranquil but sometimes sinister sound of bird-calls was eerily conjured up by the orchestra. The piece ended quietly and led directed into the Sibelius.

Sir Simon Rattle said this of the 22-minute symphony: “It’s almost like a scream. There’s no other piece that ends in C major where you feel it’s the end of the world. Look at how carefully he orchestrates it so that it doesn’t sound like a victory, but something you reach at the end of death.”

That was more or less how Stasevska saw it and she drew from her orchestra a powerful, visceral performance that was a triumphant success.

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