March 16th 2019

Enduring sunshine on a wet March night

Whilst Storm Gareth ensured the rain poured outside (and then some!), audiences inside the Westmorland Hall at Kendal Leisure Centre, attending the latest offering by Lakeland Sinfonia, were treated to a programme of enduring sunshine.

Centrepiece of this concert was a performance of Mendelssohn’s ever-popular E minor violin concerto. His last large orchestral work, it is imbued with a youthful and fantastic capriciousness. The tempo taken throughout this performance was certainly sprightly, urged on by soloist and conductor at times in ways which meant the pace could be allowed to relax at others without descending into the dragging indulgences that so often pervade many interpretations.

The concerto violinist was Lucy Gould, whom many in the audience will know from her performances in the eponymous Gould Piano Trio. My first memory of Lucy is hearing her perform at the BBC Young Musician of the Year, back in 19-mumble-mumble. I remember admiring Lucy’s lyrical playing even then – a quality that was particularly evident on this evening in the second movement of the Mendelssohn.

There were times where one wished to hear the violin glide more effortlessly above the orchestral textures. The acoustics of the hall don’t always help. Conductor Philip Ellis sought to keep things balanced by checking the orchestra, so much so that the orchestral texture sometimes lacked bite.

Not so in the Dvorak 8th Symphony to follow. Here,  the orchestra shone: flautist Sarah Barkway brightly introduced the 1st movement’s G major theme and the cellos provided a generous warm tone, Leader Martin Hughes sang a sweet solo in the second, whilst there was some lovely precise timpani articulation from Joy Powdrill in the fourth. True to Ellis’s ballet-conducting roots, the music danced along, not least in the waltzing third movement. Just occasionally one felt the violin sections were slightly underpowered – perhaps another desk or two would have been welcome in the Dvorak – but the players put the pedal to the floor, and their committed playing kept the music driving along.

All performers got well-deserved acknowledgement by conductor and audience at the end.

The concert had opened with Nielsen’s Helios and its depiction of a sun sweeping majestically across the sky, shaped and phrased brilliantly by conductor and orchestra. Leaving the concert into a damp March darkness, the world still seemed a little brighter.

Andrew Lucas