At 9.20pm the players of the Royal Northern Sinfonia were doubtless anticipating that soon they would be en route back across the Pennines. But the Lakeland Sinfonia Concert Society’s audience had delaying tactics in store. As the final bars of ‘ringing triumph’ brought Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony to an end, a standing ovation, lasting several minutes (only rarely experienced on these occasions and to which all the players contributed), greeted the evening’s maestro.
Why? Simply because the Sinfonia that we have long known as a wonderful orchestra had just been inspired to perform to a considerably higher level by Julian Rachlin, its balletic Principal Guest Conductor. Here is a musician with a CV to die for (both as conductor and violinist), who possesses an ability to communicate clearly and interact with his players. His body language and stick technique, his total involvement in every aspect of the performances, his musicianship and his imaginative, romantic approach to his interpretations ensured that, with the total co-operation of his players, the most memorable performances resulted.
The readings of the Tchaikovsky works – the Symphony and the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin – revealed a sensitivity of phrasing, dramatic and dynamic contrasts, seamless melodic flow, taut rhythmic control and an overall imaginative approach to these so-familiar compositions, which meant that new details were constantly being thrust upon us.
Mozart’s 3rd Violin Concerto was an ideal vehicle for conveying the other imposing and commanding side of Rachlin’s musical persona. Due to his remarkable bowing technique his violin was sweet-toned, lyrical of line, seamlessly phrased and capable of the most delicious, breathless pianissimos and the widest range of tonal colour. Throughout, he enjoyed a perfect, infectious alliance with his colleagues who, in every aspect, were the most responsive and sensitive of partners. Together they presented sheer beauty, sparkle, happiness, drama and, occasionally, a rustic, humorous charm for our enjoyment. Mozart’s genius was revealed in all its true glory.