During the interval a lady observed, ‘I bet you’ll enjoy writing this one up!’ From the outset and through the orchestra’s musical journey, my sense was that the evening was destined to be quite special. Indeed, as we trooped out into the December chill, I could not but wholeheartedly agree with the many overheard comments all along the lines of ‘This was the best playing I’ve ever heard from this orchestra’.
The orchestra? The Lakeland Sinfonia. The occasion? The orchestra’s pre-Christmas concert in the Westmorland Hall. The programme content was excellent in that it played to the orchestra’s strengths. It is blessed with a quality woodwind section, the string section has improved significantly, as have the horns (a gold star for the principal horn) and brass section in general, and last, but not least, the Sinfonia’s one-lady percussion band. All performed heroically and the evening’s maestro, Wyn Davies, will have been happy with the performances, all the result of much hard private practice and diligent rehearsal sessions.
Respighi’s suite The Birds – brilliantly orchestrated and ideal material for the Sinfonia’s many talented wind players – was imaginatively played with close attention being given to all details necessary for the colourful, often humorous presentation.
Ben Goldscheider, a young horn player at the start of his solo career, brought true Mozartian characterization to his reading of the composer’s 3rd Horn Concerto. He has impressive technical control, lovely tone quality, a wide dynamic range and an understanding of the music’s geography. His encore, Bernhard Krol’s Laudatio for solo horn, was most sensitively played.
The Sinfonia’s rhythmic strengths, its lovely warm tutti sound and its close attention to all detail vividly illuminated its reading of Rossini’s Thieving Magpie overture, and its excellent performance of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Warm, appreciative applause rewarded the players for the quality of performance. There was neat, exposed solo work, finely-phrased, atmospheric, well-balanced tutti passages and a feeling that there was a willing, successful response to their conductor’s demands.