Enchanting journey

Listening to Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony is like embarking on an enchanting journey.

And the Berlin Symphony Orchestra provided a transport of delight when it performed the Finnish composer’s superb work at Sheffield City Hall.

Conductor Alexander Liebreich worked his socks off to extract a wide spectrum of colours and shades from the German band as the piece unfolded.

The finale was fabulous and special mention must be made of the superb playing of the thrilling brass section.

It was a magical half hour as the symphony occupied the majority of the second half of the penultimate concert of the Sheffield International season 2011/12.

Immediately prior to the fifth, the Berlin musicians performed Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, making the post interval offerings much more satisfying than the first session which kicked off with Weber’s Der Freischutz Overture, a slight curtain-raiser which seemed to finish before it had really started.

The majority of the concert’s first half was devoted to Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 1.

Doing the honour was the multi-award winning virtuoso Agara Szymczewska whose performance was faultless from start to finish.

But what dampened the party was the composition itself, an uncompromising and edgy piece.

However, the audience loved it and such was the level of applause at the end that Ms Szymczewska was coaxed back on stage for a lovely solo encore.

Classical music returns to Sheffield City Hall on Saturday, May 26, when The Halle perform the final concert of the 2011/12 season.

Top of the bill is Shostakovich’s Symphony No 9 while there will also be music by Wagner and Mahler. The concert is due to start at 7pm.

ANDREW JARVIS