Applause greeted the orchestra’s entrance and, after an elongated pause, the director arrived – a small, bustling figure bounding energetically up the stairs and making his way centre-stage. Renewed applause brought forth the familiar, much-loved response – a couple of deep, comic bows to the audience and his colleagues – and the concert was up and running.
The orchestra, guests of the Lakeland Sinfonia, was the Royal Northern Sinfonia; the much-admired director was, of course, Bradley Creswick, who had a busy evening ahead as director of JS Bach’s 1st Brandenburg Concerto and Mendelssohn’s 1st Symphony, and as director and soloist in Bruch’s 1st Violin Concerto.
As is always the case with our friends from Gateshead, we experienced an evening’s music-making of the highest quality. Bach’s Baroque demands in the Concerto were met with stylistic fastidiousness. Superb playing from all five members of the concertino (solo) group was matched by that of the ripieno section (the main body of players). The fast movements had sparkle and energy, the slower movements a sense of peace and calm, whilst throughout there were long expressive phrases, shapely cadences and immaculate ensemble work.
The beautiful and so-familiar Bruch concerto received a deeply-emotional performance. Bradley Creswick’s sophisticated musicianship was in full flow: glorious tone in all registers, flexible phrasing, passion and drama, and a luscious calmness throughout the quietly lyrical moments. His colleagues supported him so well – lovely textures, great climaxes and effective contrasts between the pp and ff phrases. Unfortunately, there were some periods when the orchestra’s volume almost blocked out much of the soloist’s good work; had a conductor been at the helm things might have been different.
The 15-year-old Mendelssohn’s 1st Symphony is full of crisp, rhythmic, sometimes explosive movement, calm lyricism, strongly-assertive as well as delicate will-o’-the-wisp textures (glorious pizzicato passages). Bradley Creswick, in dancing master mode at the end, oversaw an electric performance that was deservedly awarded enthusiastic acclaim by the audience.