The Lakeland Sinfonia Concert Society’s season ended triumphantly with the BBC Philharmonic, under the direction of Duncan Ward, presenting a programme of music, which although composed within a brief period of 50 years, was hugely varied in idiom and emotional impact. It enabled the orchestra to display, for our delight and wonderment, its formidable array of skills.
Debussy’s Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune (1894), one of the most colourful of all impressionist compositions, has a dreamy, magical stillness and we marvelled that such delicacy of sound could be produced by such a vast array of instruments. But then, sudden glints break the spell, and we are briefly transported into another world. Each player was intimately involved in these shifts; everybody understood the purpose of the varying shades of intensity and colour. The result? A totally absorbing experience.
Duncan Ward met the evening’s cello soloist, Leonard Elschenbroich, for the very first time two days prior to this concert. These two young men, tasked, after the briefest of rehearsal time, with producing a performance of one of the most fastidiously-marked and demanding of concertos, did just that- and more! Elgar’s Concerto in E minor (1919) was performed, by soloists and orchestral colleagues alike, with remarkable attention to the wealth of detail present in the score. It was beautifully controlled, virtuosic, emotionally charged and atmospheric, with a fine-judged partnership throughout the varying dynamic and tempo contexts. An alluring chamber music intimacy was present in the quieter passages, whilst power and depth – with the characteristic nobilmente instruction – gave huge impact to the many climactic moments. Significantly, Elschenbroich’s performance drew enthusiastic applause from his orchestral colleagues.
Each member of the orchestra is required to perform heroically in Bartók’ s colourful Concerto for Orchestra (1944). Here is a dynamic, gloriously-virtuosic five-movement work, during which all sections contributed with distinction. Textural clarity, rhythmic energy, immaculate ensemble work, dynamic contrast – all were there as the performance moved, with a captivating, impelling inevitability, towards the brilliance of the final bars.