Sir Mark Elder has announced that he is to step down next year as the Hallé’s chief conductor and music director, for nigh on a quarter of a century. The world renowned maestro will pass on to his successor an orchestra in excellent shape, as Friday’s programme amply demonstrated. Sir Mark opened with Ralph Vaughan Williams’s first Norfolk Rhapsody. His exquisite shading of dynamics, beautifully etched solo woodwind, brass and airy strings realised RVW’s evocation of the expansive Norfolk landscape and its big skies.

Huw Watkins was jointly commissioned by the Hallé and BBC National Orchestra of Wales to write his second Symphony. The half-hour long work’s composition between March 2020 and November 2021, perhaps inevitably, produced a Symphony for our time. Its central slow movement is elegiac. The tonal music conveys a poignant sense of loss. Elsewhere there are rhythmic complexities and thrilling brassy climaxes. Watkins might not inhabit the world of Vaughan Williams. Clearly though, he has refreshed the English pastoral symphonic tradition. Sir Mark’s personal introduction from the podium, communicated the orchestra’s enjoyment in rehearsing this symphony and reflected on the optimistic finale.

A glowing performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto, played by Augustin Hadelich, occupied the second half. The Grammy award winning Italian-German-American virtuoso mines every note to create a spectrum of colours. His muscular opening phrases gradually sweetened in tone to become bathed in light as he soared high above the stave.

Hadelich played his own brilliant 1st movement cadenza instead of the one written by Joseph Joachim which is usually performed. The finale had all the excitement of its boisterous Hungarian dance form. Sir Mark and the Hallé were the near perfect concerto partners and the well upholstered strings built on four double basses supplied the required heft. The delighted audience was rewarded with a dazzling solo encore: Augustin Hadelich played his own arrangement of the Tango Por Una Cabeza, by Carlos Gardel.