Review: Airedale Symphony Orchestra, King’s Hall, Ilkley, Sunday 21st November 2021

THE orchestra’s first public concert in twenty months and an audience hungry for live music virtually guaranteed a joyous reception.

John Anderson, the ASO’s conductor since 1990, introduced three popular works from the 19th and early 20th century. The Prelude to Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel weaves into just eight minutes some of the fairytale opera’s best loved scenes. A performance of subtle Wagnerian weight of sound opened softly with the ASO’s chorale of mellowed French horns in the deeply moving children’s Evening Prayer.

A decade after the 1893 Weimar premiere of Hansel and Gretel, Sibelius conducted the first performance of his Violin Concerto in D minor. This is at least in spirit, the last of the great 19th century romantic violin concertos. A hauntingly beautiful opening for the solo violin is cushioned by gently pulsating pianissimo strings. The music conveys longing for the century past and portends nastier things to come. Andy Long who is associate leader of the Orchestra of Opera North was the unshowy soloist. Andy stressed beauty of tone while making light of the concerto’s virtuosic demands. The tightness of ensemble and pointing up of orchestral colours set the seal on a memorable performance.

An exhilarating reading of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony filled the second half of this Sunday matinee concert. In the irrepressible final movement, the notes seemed to fly off the pages of the score.

John Anderson and the Airedale Symphony Orchestra next return to the King’s Hall with an all Russian programme, on Sunday 13th March at 7.30pm.

By Geoffrey Mogridge