A perfect finale to the 2018/19 season

BBC Philharmonic Concert Review
Saturday 27 April 2019

The Lakeland Sinfonia’s current season of concerts came to an end with a visit from the BBC Philharmonic. It is always thrilling when a large professional symphony orchestra visits Kendal and the concert on April 27 did not disappoint; in fact, the coming together of a fine orchestra, a master conductor and a brilliant soloist made it a remarkable occasion.

Sibelius’ sixth symphony opened the programme. This work is less well-known than some of the composer’s other symphonies and yet has qualities that make it instantly appealing. It has an intimacy which is unique in the composer’s symphonic output and the influence of the Dorian mode (the white notes d-d on the piano) gives it a special flavour; this is immediately established by the strings and wood wind. The quality of the string tone in the quiet, gentle opening was magical and was soon followed by the lovely expressive playing of the oboes and flutes and other members of the wind section as they seamlessly unfolded Sibelius’ melodic lines. Each of the four movements of this work has it’s own character and mood; both were perfectly realised in this performance.

\jennifer Pike-c.-Arno-9After the Sibelius, Jennifer Pike joined the orchestra for a performance of Tchaikovsky’s ever-popular violin concerto. This is one of the most demanding works in the violin concerto repertoire but Jennifer Pike made it sound effortless as she skilfully negotiated the composer’s technically difficult passages, once thought too difficult to play by soloists in Tchaikovsky’s time. But, apart from her dazzling technique, what is so impressive about Jennifer’s playing is the sheer beauty of her tone and the sense of freedom in her phrasing. Her performance was met with rapturous applause and we were rewarded by an encore, an unaccompanied Polish piece, which again demonstrated the expressive qualities in her playing.

Conductor, Andrew Davies, is very precise in his gestures which offer clear directions to his players without the unnecessary flamboyant gestures that we see in some conductors. The clarity and economy clearly paid off in Stravinsky’s Symphony in C, which we heard after the interval, where the players need the help of a cool-headed conductor to negotiate Stravinsky’s complex rhythms. The energy and rhythmic precision required for a successful performance of this work demands a high level of concentration from all sections of the orchestra and it was this that was so impressive in the BBC Phil’s performance.

Finally, to end the concert, the orchestra turned once again to Sibelius with a stirring performance of his ever-popular ‘Finlandia’.  This triumphant music was the perfect finale to a memorable evening and a fine end to the Lakeland Sinfonia’s concert season.

Clive Walkley