The Chamber Orchestra of Leeds, St Margaret’s Church, Horsforth, Friday 7th June 2019

HORSFORTH based conductor Martin Binks has formed this orchestra to explore works from the Baroque and Classical period that are generally overlooked by the city’s large scale community symphony orchestras. Friday’s programme, the third in the Chamber Orchestra of Leeds’ inaugural season, embraced four centuries. From Pachelbel famous 17th century Canon (played on this occasion with the rarely performed Gigue) to early 20th century Ravel; the rich sonorities of his Pavane for a Deceased Infanta.

The orchestra’s complement of 35 handpicked musicians - that’s about half the size of the average symphony orchestra - brought lightness and humour to Cimarosa’s frothy Overture to his opera buffa the Secret Marriage. The Suite No 1 from Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opera Les Indes Galantes reflected this conductor’s life-long passion for French music. The full size symphonic kettle drums in the concluding grand Chaconne unfortunately tended to swamp the textures. Smaller chamber-sized timpani might have been preferable in the interests of balance.

19th century Austrian composer Franz Doppler’s two-movement Concertino for Two Flutes and Orchestra proved an endearing novelty. It was played with rhythmic vitality and lovingly sculpted ornamentation from flautists Hannar Dilworth and Catherine Wright.

Schubert’s youthful Symphony No 6 in C major has always been overshadowed by his monumental Ninth known as “The Great C major”. An elegant slow introduction paved the way for a nimble Allegro and some stylish playing from all sections. There was a certain buoyancy and lightness of strings together with warm brass sonorities but, as in the earlier Rameau, the timpani needed some dampening down.

The Chamber Orchestra of Leeds will be playing at next October’s Wetherby Festival. Meanwhile, Martin Binks is very busy planning the smaller orchestra’s future concerts concurrently with his upcoming 50th year as Conductor and Artistic Director of the Leeds Symphony Orchestra.

Geoffrey Mogridge