Review: Airedale Symphony Orchestra,King’s Hall, Ilkley

Sunday 17th November 2019

CONDUCTOR John Anderson and his Airedale Symphony Orchestra lit up a packed King’s Hall with their scorching performance of Dvorak’s vivacious Carnival Overture. The clarity of such atmospheric detail as the tender passages for solo flute and an infectiously rhythmic solo tambourine released Dvorak’s exotic orchestral colours from the pages of his score.

The darker hued orchestral writing of nordic composers Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius occupied the bulk of the concert. Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor has echoes of the folk music of his Norwegian homeland and is unquestionably the best known work of his arguably slender output. This concerto’s popularity probably prompted Claude Debussy’s dismissal of Grieg as “...a pink bon-bon wrapped in snow”.

James Kirby has been a member of the distinguished Barbican Piano Trio since 1992. The chamber music-like intimacy of his intepretation was a revelation. Though surging power and fluidity were just as evident in the dramatic outer movements. Kirby was sensitively partnered by Anderson and the AS0. Conductor and orchestra superbly matched the nuances of the solo piano and the grandeur of the climactic passages.

The music of Sibelius evokes Finnish folklore and dense forests of pine, spruce or birch interspersed with dark, mysterious lakes. Symphony No 1 in E minor opens softly with an ominous drum roll which introduces a melancholy recurring “motto” theme. This is initially played by a lone clarinet and then developed into a series of instantly recognisable soaring romantic melodies for the full orchestra.

The ASO strings, woodwind and harp provided a sumptuous cushion for the big tunes. Clearly, the trumpets, trombones, horns and percussion were determined not to be outshone. Gleaming brass fanfares set the seal on a thrilling performance of this brooding Sibelius masterpiece.

The ASO’s special event with Leeds Philharmonic Chorus, at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 29th February, includes a concert version of Porgy and Bess and a suite from South Pacific.

Geoffrey Mogridge