50 years of the Lakeland Sinfonia – 30th Nov 2019

Lakeland Sinfonia Review: Saturday 30 November

On November 30,1968, a new local orchestra appeared on the concert scene, Kendal Chamber Orchestra. Several years later the orchestra was renamed the Lakeland Sinfonia and on Saturday, November 30, the foundation of the orchestra was remembered in the Westmorland Hall in what was billed as the 50th anniversary concert. It was a joyful celebration and several founder members of the orchestra were present in the audience to share in the occasion, including Edward Lawton who was the oboe soloist in the first concert. Ted, as he is affectionately known, went on to be principal oboe in the orchestra for many years. The ensemble has grown in size over the years and this was probably the largest gathering of players the Lakeland Sinfonia Orchestra has ever assembled on stage.

Under the expert direction of conductor Philip Ellis, the orchestra was on good form and the concert got off to a lively start with Vaughan Williams’ Overture ‘The Wasps’. Although the opening may call to mind the buzzing of wasps, this was not the composer’s intention. The piece was written for an Aristophanes play and the ‘buzzing’ is the idle chatter of old men. The piece is colourfully orchestrated after the composer’s study with Ravel when, in his own words, he acquired ‘a little French polish’. All this came to life under Philip Ellis’s carefully controlled performance which was rhythmically exciting, with the strings and horns clearly enjoying the expansive melody which forms the centre piece of the work.

After the Vaughan Williams came Grieg’s ever-popular Piano Concerto with the indomitable Martin Roscoe as soloist. Immediately, it was obvious that there was an excellent rapport between conductor, soloist and orchestra and there were many memorable moments in the performance. Martin Roscoe, who has played the piece many times was, of course, superb: his technical control was masterly, as demonstrated, for example, in his playing of Grieg’s cadenza. Again, Philip Ellis drew some fine playing from the orchestra especially in the slow movement; the opening theme was beautifully shaped by the strings. Indeed, the string playing throughout the evening was of a very high standard: the tuning was good, and the dynamic range covered the whole spectrum from a real pianissimo to a powerful fortissimo. The woodwind players too distinguished themselves in solo passage work.

After the interval came a performance of Tchaikovsky’s first symphony ‘Winter daydreams’. This symphony is perhaps the least played of the composer’s six symphonic works and so it was good to have a chance to become acquainted with it through a live performance. It is a long work, technically and musically challenging for the orchestra who sustained their concentration through the four lengthy movements to give a very creditable performance.

Clive Walkley