RNS Italian evening

The Royal Northern Sinfonia opened the Lakeland Sinfonia’s 43rd season of concerts in the
Westmorland Hall on Saturday 29 September in splendid style. The concert had an Italian theme:
although not all the composers represented in the programme were native Italians, all the music had some connection with Italy. Thus, Austrian Schubert’s Overture ‘in the Italian style’ opened the concert, soon followed by Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade; and after the interval we heard the German Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony. The idea of themed concerts – a new approach for the Lakeland Sinfonia society – does give coherence to a concert season and is to be welcomed.

The concert was unusual in two ways: firstly, no conductor graced the platform, the orchestra
being under the direction of charismatic leader, Bradley Creswick; secondly, the concert contained two concertos, one for Oboe and the other a work for Cor Anglais, both played by members of the orchestra and not by visiting soloists.

Playing without a conductor makes great demands on an orchestra in terms of ensemble playing
and interpretation alone, but under the direction of their dynamic leader it presented no problems to the players, revealing once again what a fine orchestra the Royal Northern Sinfonia is. And what other orchestra has a leader who runs on the stage as energetically as Bradley Creswick; who clearly loves music and presents it as such a joy to himself and his players; who shows such respect for his orchestral colleagues as to kneel and present a flower to one of his soloists, as Bradley did on this occasion, after Steven Hudson’s solo performance in Albinoni’s Oboe Concerto?

One of the most impressive features of the concert was the degree of precision achieved by the
players. What we experienced was high quality chamber music playing: no conductor was needed and, indeed, his or her absence may have added to the evening’s pleasure for some people.

Given performances of such excellence, there were many memorable moments. Steven Hudson’s
expressive rendition of the plaintive slow movement of Albinoni’s Oboe Concerto was certainly one. In the pre-concert he explained how the technique of circular breathing enabled him to sustain the long melodic lines. Michaael O’Donnell’s execution of rapid passage work in Donizetti’s Cor Anglais Concertino, a series of ever more elaborate variations on a theme, was another. And after the whirlwind performance of the Saltarello and Tarantella, the last movement of Mendessohn’s Italian Symphony, we could not fail to go home happy!

Clive Walkley