Dvorak, Grieg, Sibelius
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.
Wagner, Weber, Berlioz
The recurring so called “Tristan Chord” which is introduced in the dark and unsettling Prelude to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde suffuses his great music drama with intense unresolved longing. Resolution is achieved only by the union in death (the Liebestod) of the star crossed titular lovers. ASO conductor John Anderson’s informative introductory remarks, illustrated by the orchestra, sketched in the structure and groundbreaking significance of this, the most famous chord in classical music. The listening experience was subsequently illuminated and enriched by such fascinating background detail. Anderson’s shaping of long phrases and his delicate shading of dynamics created beautifully nuanced performances of the Prelude and Liebestod.
The mood lightened somewhat with Carl Maria von Weber’s youthful Bassoon Concerto in F major. This piece is designed to display the versatility of the solo instrument. Rosemary Anderson, the orchestra’s section principal treated the audience to a virtuosic performance that fully exploited the timbral richness and the expressive range of her instrument.
Hector Berlioz was roughly the same age as the 20-something Weber when he completed his Symphonie Fantastique. The hour-long, five- movement symphony requires a huge orchestra including a large string section, two harps and lots of heavy brass. The battery of percussion assembled on the King’s Hall stage included no fewer than four sets of timpani and a large bass drum. There were some quieter moments, such as the exquisite waltz movement decorated by the crystalline harp textures, and a beautifully sculpted solo cor anglais and an off stage oboe in the pastoral Adagio movement. The thrilling March to the Scaffold and the tumultuous Witches Sabbath, quite rightly, brought the house down.
Beethoven, Brahms, Copland, Respighi
The ASO’s ambitious programme contained significant works from both the 19th and 20th Centuries. Conductor John Anderson’s dramatically paced performance of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture skilfully managed the interwoven themes leading to the exultant climax.
The ostentatious drum roll and anguished orchestral tutti which opens Brahms’ Piano Concerto No 1 in D minor sets the mood for this immense, dark-hued work. This Concerto feels more like a symphony in which orchestra and solo piano often seem at odds.
John Anderson’s effective balance of textures within the orchestra allowed the sensitive colouring of pianist William Green to shine through, especially in the intensely beautiful Adagio. William’s brilliant cascades of notes in the huge opening movement and the Rondo finale were never swamped by the symphonic weight of the orchestra.
Aaron Copland originally scored Appalachian Spring for a chamber orchestra of 13 players. Following the 1944 premiere, he arranged the music for full symphony orchestra. The ASO’s performance captured the piquant harmonies, the joy and repose of this engaging score.
Ottorino Respighi’s symphonic poem The Pines of Rome was premiered on December 14, 1924 at Rome’s Augusteo Theatre. The lofty Victorian splendour of Leeds Town Hall was the setting for the second performance, with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Albert Coates, at the 1925 Leeds Triennial Musical Festival. The Pines of Rome requires vast forces including harp, piano, celesta, off-stage brass bands - and (ideally) a grand concert organ with a 32-foot pedal stop. But all is not noise and bombast, Respighi creates an abundance of warm Mediterranean softness and colour. The Pines of the Janiculum features a gramophone recording of a nightingale sweetly singing to the pianissimo live shimmering orchestral backdrop of muted, trilling violins. John Anderson’s balance of the change of atmosphere to the sinister rumblings of Roman armies built to the triumphal climax - bolstered by extra brass sections in the King's Hall boxes. The audience loved it.
A responsive Sunday afternoon audience filled Saltaire's decorative Victoria Hall for a programme built on one of the greatest classical concertos paired with Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony. John Anderson and the Airedale Symphony Orchestra opened with a rousing account of Berlioz' racy and much loved Roman Carnival overture.
Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D is an Everest of the solo violin repertoire which, at the time of its 1806 premiere, transcended musical boundaries. The work is constructed on the grandest scale and with a duration of around 45 minutes, it is exceeded only by Elgar's Violin Concerto. Beethoven's opens mysteriously with five soft beats played on the kettle drums. Early audiences were puzzled and their response was cool. It was not until the twelve year-old Joseph Joachim performed the virtuosic solo part in 1844 that the concerto began to gain its rightful recognition.
Andrew Long, associate leader of the Orchestra of Opera North, was the expansive soloist with the ASO. Long's soaring lyricism and lightness of touch were the hallmarks of a fine performance. The serene Larghetto movement was notable for Long's beautiful arching phrases with delicacate muted strings and woodwind accompaniment. This led into the bright and cheerful Rondo with its song-like intonations and a brilliant solo cadenza composed by Fritz Kreisler.
John Anderson and the ASO then reminded us why Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 4 in F minor, with its ominous recurring "Fate" motto, has long been a favourite of audiences - and orchestras. A storming, brassy climax to the dramatic first movement; the nostalgic mood of the second, pizzicato strings and trilling woodwind figures of the third. But perhaps above all, an edge-of seat Finale that is unquestionably one of the most thrilling in all music. The clarity and momentum of the ASO's performance generated a palpable sense of excitement, warmly acknowledged by the foot stamping and cheers of a capacity audience.
A RICHLY varied programme marked the centenary of the 1918 Armistice and the Airedale Symphony Orchestra's own 120th anniversary. ASO conductor John Anderson opened with Sir Edward Elgar's swaggering Cockaigne Overture "In London Town". Subtle orchestral colours were illuminated in the final bars by the glorious sonorities of the Town Hall organ, played by Alan Horsey.
Elgar conducted the premiere of his choral and orchestral elegy The Spirit of England in Leeds Town Hall on 3rd May 1916. Laurence Binyon's poems had inspired the composer to some of his loveliest vocal and instrumental writing. Soprano Sarah Power and Leeds Philharmonic Chorus eloquently expressed Binyon's immortal lines, and John Anderson's finely balanced reading captured the work's ebb and flow. In the final section, For the Fallen, the music built up to a great climax before gently fading into infinity - "...As the stars that are starry at the time of our darkness, to the end, to the end they remain."
The second half opened with a centenary tribute to the RAF: Anderson and the ASO ensured that the big tunes in Sir William Walton's stirring Spitfire Prelude and Fugue emerged in luxuriant technicolor. Next, the superbly blended voices floated the Lux aeterna around the auditorium to profoundly moving effect. This is John Cameron's achingly beautiful transcription for unaccompanied chorus of Elgar's Nimrod variation.
The ASO then performed John Williams' Hymn For the Fallen from his score for Steven Spielberg's 1998 film Saving Private Ryan. A disarmingly simple melody, austere trumpets, a solo drum cadence and an angelic chorus raised the music to the heights.
Joseph Judge, the new Leeds Philharmonic Chorus Master, conducted the unaccompanied voices in Eric Whitacer's emotive choral miniature Sleep; the lyrics are by Charles Anthony Silvestri. Joseph's expressive hands sculpted the phrasing and dynamics from a powerful climax down to a pianissimo whisper.
John Anderson returned to the podium to preside over the grand finale. The refulgent performance of Va Pensiero (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) from Verdi's Nabucco was encored, this time with the audience encouraged to hum in unison. So to the "big" ending: Tchaikovsky's monumental 1812 Overture was performed with the rarely heard choral embellishments valiantly sung in Russian. There was, of course, a battery of percussion, chiming bells, brass fanfares, the mighty Town Hall organ and thunderous volleys of cannon fire. The warm and responsive audience loved every note.
The sun drenched King's Hall was jam packed for a generous programme designed for Sunday afternoon family enjoyment. On stage, the musicians of the Airedale Symphony Orchestra were casually dressed and conductor John Anderson had discarded his concert evening jacket in favour of an elegant snooker finals-style waist coat. The informal atmosphere was much better for fostering a rapport with parents and children alike. So too was John's easygoing dialogue with the youngest members of the audience.
Following a deluge of cheers for a medley from Klaus Badelt's swashbuckling music for Pirates of the Caribbean, John and the Orchestra indulged the kids by encoring the thrilling final pages. The spacious theme from John Barry's film score for Out of Africa calmed things down until Elmer Bernstein's rugged theme from The Magnificent Seven stirred them up again.
Next, came a very special treat. American actor Michael Boudewyns had flown in from Maine, USA - coincidentally making his UK debut - to narrate George Kleinsinger's Tubby the Tuba. ASO’s young soloist, Matthew Wiggins, played the eponymous solo instrument with obvious relish. An undoubted highlight of Michael's Vaudeville-inspired narration was his delightful voice and hand puppet characterisation of Kermit the Frog. A darkened auditorium with a spotlight on both soloists would have added that indefinable magic to such a theatrical performance.
Later on, however, a couple of youngsters revelled in the opportunity to wave John Anderson's magic baton in front of the orchestra before the maestro himself took over to conduct Harry's Wondrous World, from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Next up, principal trumpet Laurence Killian's own Celebration for Orchestra showcased every section of the ASO in this, their 120th birthday year.
The magical world of film provided the grand finale to a fun packed programme: three iconic James Bond themes, Max Steiner's music from A Summer Place, arranged by Laurence Killian and - most exciting of all - the Main Titles from John Williams' immortal music for Star Wars.
And finally...John Anderson and the ASO raised the roof with the tumultuous brass and bells climax to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture - a foretaste of their Leeds Town Hall concert on Sunday, 21st October.
The Airedale Symphony Orchestra's family concert was presented in association with the Friends of the King's Hall and Winter Garden.
Mendelssohn's brooding Hebrides Overture is an impression of his boat trip from Mull to Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa. The Airedale Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Anderson, skilfully realised the graphic description of a storm tossed sea with foaming waves surging into the dark, mysterious cave. Tension building crescendos helped to convey the elemental wildness. Fine individual contributions such as the beautifully shaped clarinet solo created moments of calm.
Yorkshire's climate is fortunately less susceptible to the tempestuous conditions that Mendelssohn might have encountered in the outer Hebrides. Paul Wilkinson's composition, Airedale Seasons, is restless rather than turbulent. The descriptive writing effectively creates a spectrum of muted orchestral colours in its depiction of the changing landscape and skies.
From here on, the sunshine prevailed. Hummel's Introduction and Variations for Oboe and Orchestra are predominantly lighthearted. The ASO's elegant playing was perfectly complemented by principal oboe Chris Garbutt's lightness of touch in the virtuosic solo passages.
John Anderson and his Orchestra undoubtedly caught the sun in Brahms' Symphony No 2 in D major. The opening movement's horns and woodwind had a tangible warmth. A richness of string tone characterised the song-like Adagio, and cheerfulness permeated the third movement. The spirited Finale radiated energy and exuberance in abundance.
A Sunday afternoon programme of fairytale Russian music packed the King's Hall for this opening concert of the Airedale Symphony Orchestra's 2017-18 season. Conductor John Anderson stepped up to the podium and immediately launched his orchestra into the dramatic opening bars of the Introduction - with thunderous drum rolls - to Tchaikovsky's ballet The Sleeping Beauty. This led into the exquisite Dance of the Lilac Fairy decorated by ASO harpist Anita Aslin's crystalline textures. There followed the miaows of Puss in Boots and The White Cat in the Pas de Caractere. Beautifully poised strings, woodwind, and harp textures sprinkled like stardust depicted the enchanted forest in the Panorama ballet. The Suite ended with the highly theatrical Waltz and the magnificent Rose Adagio.
The underlying menace in Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird - played by the ASO in the 1919 version as a suite of five movements - was skilfully evoked by a pianissimo string tremolando with trilling clarinets, oboes, flutes and ominous-sounding bassoons. The frenetic Infernal Dance was followed by the inexorable build-up of the Finale from a solo horn to a triumphal orchestral tutti with resonating brass fanfares.
Rimsky Korsakov's Symphonic Suite, Scheherazade, was choreographed by Michel Fokine for the Ballet Russes, with legendary dancer Vaslav Nijinsky as a Golden Slave. John Anderson and the Airedale Symphony Orchestra lifted the exotic colours of the East from the pages of the score. Beautifully shaped instrumental detail contributed to a richly atmospheric performance. Guest leader Andrew Long's solo violin sustained a sensuous musical line as the eponymous Scherezade.
The 1916 Battle of the Somme was captured in soft-grained black and white by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell for this amazing 75 minutes-long silent film. Planned initially as morale-boosting wartime propaganda, the Somme film was seen by almost half the UK population. Millions packed cinemas across the land in the hope of catching glimpses of loved ones on the battlefield. Such was the film's appeal that audience figures remained unsurpassed for six decades - until the release of Star Wars in 1977.
Laura Rossi's resourceful symphonic score sensitively and lovingly matches the interwoven tapestry of Malin and McDowell's harrowing footage of dead and wounded as well as the smiles and cheery waves of the troops, or jubilant battlefield preparations.
The launching of a preliminary attack by avalanches of so called "plum pudding" bombs - designed to eradicate the German barbed wire defences - is heralded by suspenseful hovering strings and the eerie-sounding gale from a wind machine. Full orchestra with thunderous timpani depict gunfire and heavy artillery. Plangent oboe and crystalline harp textures accompany recovery of the wounded on stretchers, images of dead horses or the regimental dog and its beloved master fallen in battle.
Rossi had earlier set the scene by reading poignant passages from her great-uncle's battlefield diary. She must have been both moved and delighted by the Airedale Symphony Orchestra's luminous and impeccably synchronised performance conducted by John Anderson. A large audience was held in thrall by the overwhelming power of the film and Rossi's atmospheric soundscape.
The 1805 premiere of Beethoven's opera Leonore was a flop. Over the next decade Beethoven radically re-worked his opera. He renamed the work Fidelio but was not satisfied with any of his overtures (Leonore No's 1,2 & 3). The now familiar curtain raiser was written for the Viennese Premiere of Fidelio in 1814. Conductor John Anderson at the helm of his Airedale Symphony Orchestra took the Fidelio Overture's introductory flourish at a less frenetic speed than adopted by some conductors. His expansive tempi accentuated the dramatic ascending chords for full orchestra. There was an impressive tightness of ensemble in all sections.
The conductor then escorted violinist Sophie Cameron and cellist George Hoult centre stage to play the rich and earthy sounding Brahms Double Concerto in A minor. These perceptive young soloists rapidly established a rapport with the audience. Their sweet-toned ardour was matched by the intensity of the ASO's accompaniment. Infectious Gypsy rhythms were interpreted with a sure sense of the local idiom. The lyrical intensity of the beautiful Andante movement was especially memorable.
Completing the alliterative effect of the evening's composers, Anderson and the ASO devoted the second half to Anton Bruckner's Symphony No 3 in D minor. In the 'original' 1873 version, this is one of the longest of Bruckner's symphonies. It is more frequently performed - as on this occasion - in a truncated 'third' version from 1889 running for just under an hour. Anderson realised the grandeur and nobility of this symphony in an absorbing reading noteable for the clarity of instrumental detail. The final movement's playful Polka and an exultant coda with imposing brass chorales set the seal on a compelling performance.
A chilly grey January Sunday afternoon, but inside Titus Salt's ornate Victoria Hall there was a palpable buzz of anticipation. The Airedale Symphony Orchestra, conducted as ever by John Anderson, had unusually programmed three works written for sections of a typical symphony orchestra.
The ASO brass opened the concert with a resonating performance of the splendid Fanfare from Paul Dukas' music for Diaghilev's ballet, La Peri. Next came the winds with Richard Strauss's Suite in B flat. The young Strauss composed this piece at the behest of conductor Hans von Bulow for a combination of double woodwind, plus contrabassoon and four French horns. The ASO's talented players, conducted by Anderson, made every bar of this youthful score spring to life. Dvorak's charming thirty minute-long Serenade for Stings completed the generous first half. The ASO's orderly reading of this lovely work had both rhythmic precision and clarity of texture - no mean feat given the large contingent of forty five strings.
Scarcely could there have been a more appropriate finale to unite the entire orchestra of seventy musicians than Beethoven's triumphal Fifth Symphony. John Anderson's interpretation of this iconic masterwork was Imbued with urgency. Beethoven's contrapuntal writing in the third movement Scherzo was wonderfully clear. The tightness and precision of the trio section with a very quiet passage for pizzicato strings ushered in the barnstorming fourth movement. Clarion horn calls, blazing trumpets, trombones and sonorous timpani were underpinned by the sinewy strings. The coda was tumultuous, the whole experience exhilarating. A capacity audience responded with warmth and enthusiasm.
A well-filled King's Hall greeted the Airedale Symphony Orchestra's opening concert of their Ilkley season. It is hard to believe that Mendelssohn's Overture Ruy Blas was dashed off in just three days so carefully crafted is the orchestration heralded as it is by those stirring fanfares. The ASO's weighty brass and woodwind combined with supple strings to bring out the drama and grandeur of this splendid piece. It is even harder to believe that Dvorak's hauntingly beautiful Violin Concerto in A minor languished in relative obscurity for decades. Thanks in no small part to the advocacy of Dvorak's great-grandson, the eminent violinist Josef Suk, the work has become a cornerstone of the concerto repertoire. Kazakhstan born violin virtuoso Galya Bisengalieva delighted the Ilkley audience with her impassioned performance of this demanding piece. Her tone was warm and vibrant and the pitching of notes perfectly centred. Both soloist and orchestra were in tune with the folk idioms that informed the composition of this lovely concerto.
The second half opened with the Polonaise and Waltz from Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin. Both excerpts were played with panache and a degree of swagger by the ASO, conducted by John Anderson.
The Orchestra's poised performance of Schumann's youthful 'Spring' Symphony No1 in B flat banished the November gloom and thoughts of Christmas. Despite moments of darkness and foreboding, the Symphony contains some of Schumann's most joyful music - a characteristic certainly mirrored by the lightness of touch in the Scherzo's two trios and an animated account of the final movement.
Khachaturian's tuneful Masquerade Suite opened the Airedale Symphony Orchestra's summer concert. The stirring Waltz is perhaps the most well known of the five movements. John Anderson's dynamic presence at the helm of the ASO demonstrated that there is much else to enjoy, such as the graceful romance with it's plangent trumpet solo. The Nocturne featured orchestra leader jacquiline Cima's immaculately phrased violin solo. there followed an ebullient Scherzo and, finally, the rhythmic energy of the Gallop with it's chirpy woodwind figures.
Mozart's Bassoon Concerto in B flat K191 cast the spotlight on a player whose finely pointed contributions have been a feature of ASO concerts for more than two decades. Principal Bassoonist Rosemary Anderson showcased the full range of her instrument; she conveyed the quirky humour and the flowing lyricism of the delightful concerto.
Rachmaninov's hour-long Symphony No. 2 in E minor somehow epitomises overblown 19th century romanticism. Savage cuts to live performances and recordings of the piece were commonplace as recently as the 1970s. the ASO's performance was uncut except for the first movement exposition repeat. Delicate solo passages included a hanting oboe in the first movement Largo and the yearning theme for clarinet in the third movement Adagio. An ample string tone and shining brass chorales charactersided a driven performance which faithfully conveyed the emotion and dark sonorities of this epic symphony.
An underlying thread of melancholoy permeated the ASO's carefully chosen programme conducted, as ever, by John Anderson. The opening entries of Brahms' Tragic Overture shounded hesitant but ensemble soon tightened and the musicians found their best form.
The ASO made an inspired choice of soloist for Elgar's much loved Cello Concerto. Young manchester born cellist George Hoult has already notched up an impressive list of engagements with major UK orchestras. Hoult really made his instrument sing in this most autumnal of concertos. Descending phrases in the heart rending Adagio were beatifully shaped while the second movement Allegro molto had a lovely fleeting quality. The finely detailed orcehstral accompaniment was always in perfect balance with the soloist.
Dvorak's haunting Symphony No. 7 in D minor is considered by some to be his greatest. The ASO's superb performance conducted by John Anderson conveyed both the sombre atmosphere and extraordinary rhythmic energy. Some very fine playing from all sections included the woodwind solos and the "horn chorale" in the beautiful Adagio movement.
Roads, railways and bridges flooded, trains cancelled, bus services cancelled! The presence of such a large audience, let alone the seventy members of the Airedale Symphony Orchestra, surely represented a triumph of human endeavour. An ebullient performance of Walton's rowdy and racy Portsmouth Point Overture soon banished lingering thoughts of the challenging weather conditions outside. The concert continued with the evocative English Rhapsody Brigg Fair, by Frederick Delius. ASO conductor John Anderson and his dedicated players captured the pulse and momentum of this atmospheric set of variations on a Lincolnshire folk tune. The languorous opening solo passages for oboe and flute were beautifully etched against the serene backdrop created by the violins. Orchestral textures were clearly delineated and carefully built up to the tumultuous climax towards the end.
The next novelty arrived in the form of Elgar's little known and wistful Romance for Bassoon and Orchestra. Bassoonist Lewis Wright revelled in the opportunity to shape and colour long, singing phrases rather than the punchy and quirky passages more frequently written for his instrument. The ASO has played a number of pieces especially written for them by Leeds composer William Kinghorn. Kinghorn's Five Pieces for Orchestra is a "recomposition" of short piano pieces which he composed in 2014. Anderson and the ASO played the five concise movements with consummate skill and attention to detail.
Kinghorn was born in 1935 - a year after the death of Sir Edward Elgar whose hour-long, deeply introspective Symphony No 2 in E Flat occupied the second half. Elgar marked the first page of his score with an enigmatic line by Shelley, "Rarely, rarely, comest thou, Spirit of Delight!" These beautiful words embrace the brooding and sombre character of the symphony, punctuated as it is with flashes of optimism and exuberance. I listened with a sense of wonderment as John Anderson and the ASO allowed this complex work to unfold. Anderson clearly knows how the music should go. His pacing and setting of tempi sounded exactly right. Balance and clarity of textures were impeccable - even in the very fast passages. I have occasionally heard the third movement Rondo Presto sound wilder, but at the expense of some detail. Here, Anderson applied the lightest possible touch to the brakes and enabled every note to be heard. The majestic Fourth Movement coda led into peaceful final bars and the sustained magical E Flat major chord embellished by glowing strings and angelic harps. A memorable and utterly enthralling performance to which the audience responded with prolonged applause.
The ASO's string section could have usefully been thinned down in the interests of a more idiomatic account of Schubert's Rosamunde Overture. Orchestral textures were too thick to capture the overture's essential vivacious quality. The proportions were better suited to that most symphonic of Beethoven's piano concertos - No 5 in E Flat the "Emperor". Young Yorkshire born pianist William Green proved his ability to cut through the symphonic canvas. Green's expressive playing in the central Adagio elicited a range of tonal colours. The transition into the Rondo finale was unduly prolonged but once there, Green was clearly in his element. This movement had boundless rhythmic vitality illuminated by flashes of brilliance.
After the interval, Brahms' Symphony No 1 in C minor, famously dubbed by conductor Hans von Bulow as "Beethoven's Tenth". ASO conductor John Anderson's measured tempo sustained the insistent drum beat in the long dramatic opening. The serene Adagio was embellished by orchestra leader Jacqueline Cima's rhapsodic solo violin. A dance-like third movement led into the tension-building final movement with its gleaming brass chorales and triumphant coda.
John Anderson and the ASO return to the King's Hall on Sunday 28th June with Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe, Dvorak's Violin Concerto and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.
Thoughts of war and remembrance permeated a cleverly themed programme of music from the concert hall and the silver screen. The suite of popular numbers from Ron Goodwin's descriptive score for the 1969 film Battle of Britain began with Aces High, a bombastic march originally intended to portray the Luftwaffe. This rousing tune with its strong Germanic flavour made extensive use of the ASO's splendid heavy brass department.
From the triumphalism of war to sad reflection on the tragic waste of young lives so intensely conveyed by George Butterworth in his orchestral rhapsody A Shropshire Lad. Butterworth's own life was brutally cut short by a sniper's bullet at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The ASO's performance, carefully shaped by conductor John Anderson, pointed up the expressive instrumental detail in this lovely score. Five years earlier, Richard Strauss's opera Der Rosenkavalier had been premiered at the Dresden Court Opera. This bittersweet music is suffused with regret at the passing of time. An orchestral suite arranged by Artur Rodzinski was first performed in New York under Rodzinski's baton on October 5th 1944. The Prelude depicts a night of passion between the Marschallin and her young lover Octavian. This turbulent music is characterised by soaring strings, gossiping woodwind and "whooping" horns. Anderson and the ASO played the suite with such loving care; the great waltz theme emerged with a tangible Viennese lilt.
After the interval, the recurring "motto" theme of Elgar's Symphony No 1 in A flat again evoked a sense of remembrance. Anderson and the ASO played with conviction in a finely balanced performance that reached the heart of this great symphony in the sublime Adagio movement. Superb work here from the strings, harps, woodwind and brass which culminated in the final blazing movement and yet another opportunity for the five horns to bask in the limelight. The ASO's next concert features excerpts from popular ballets on Sunday 25th January at 3.00pm in Saltaire's Victoria Hall.
Wagner's early opera Rienzi is rarely performed but its stirring overture remains a concert hall favourite. The Airedale Symphony Orchestra's bold and brassy performance, conducted by John Anderson, delighted an almost full house.
The unforgettable opening theme of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1 in B flat minor, announced by the horns, leads straight into the virtuosic solo part for the pianist. Rustom Battiwalla responded to the challenge of this much-loved concerto with astonishing brilliance. However, It must be said that the uneven tonal qualities of the King's Hall instrument to some degree restricted Battiwalla's palette of colours.
Airedale Seasons, being given its world premiere at this concert, was written by Leeds composer Paul Wilkinson especially for the ASO. This attractive work provided a contrast to the dazzling pianistic pyrotechnics, and the orchestral bombast of Carl Nielsen. Wilkinson showcases all sections of the orchestra in some intricately woven solo passages. The composer beautifully evokes the local countryside and the ever-changing skies - echoes of Vaughan Williams, Holst or Butterworth perhaps? I hope we shall have the chance to hear this again.
A very rare opportunity to experience the live performance of a Nielsen symphony made this concert a not-to-be missed event. Symphony No 4 'The Inextinguishable' was conceived in 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, and premiered two years later. The density of orchestral textures and fast-changing rhythms make this one of the most fiendishly difficult 20th Century symphonies to bring off. John Anderson and the ASO triumphed with a performance of blistering force, precision, and textural clarity. The brass fanfares sounded incandescent and the astringent quality of the flutes and piccolos could hardly have been bettered. Nielsen's astounding "battle of the timps" hammered out on sets of kettle drums at either side of the orchestra will remain etched in the memory. The enthusiastic audience cheers, bravos and foot-stamping at the end of this remarkable performance were richly deserved.
Wagner originally scored his Siegfried Idyll for just 18 instruments but the version for full orchestra is the one more often heard in the concert hall. The Airedale Symphony Orchestra was conducted by John Anderson. Woodwind details were beautifully sculpted and crystal clear; strings sounded full-bodied and textures were not too thick.
There followed something of a novelty at these concerts - Domenico Zipoli's Adagio for Oboe, Cello and orchestra (Elevazione) a sedate and delicate miniature that has become a popular choice for both weddings and funerals. ASO principal oboe Chris Garbutt was an impeccable soloist along with principal cello Tim Hugh. Next up, orchestra leader Jacqueline Cima (she had been replaced for the first two items by guest leader Ian Banks) moved centre stage to play Mozart's Violin Concerto No 3 in G major. This lovely concerto combines youthful exuberance with a mature treatment of thematic content; Cima's light and expressive touch was matched by playing of sensitivity from Anderson and his ASO.
Bruckner's Symphony No 1 in C Minor portends the Gothic grandeur of his later symphonies - particularly his monumental 8th - also in C minor. No 1 lasts around 45 minutes, is bursting with ideas and is much more concise. A confident opening containing intricate flute and oboe solos set the tone for an accomplished performance. Bruckner's lovely Adagio encouraged some especially fine playing from the strings. The robust playing of the G minor Scherzo was finely contrasted by the delicacy of the G minor Trio section. The timpani were well judged not to be over-prominent and we heard some golden playing from the horns and woodwind - as always seemingly without effort surmounting the trickiest passages. A much appreciated and rare opportunity to hear this early Bruckner symphony superbly played by the ASO and conducted by John Anderson with integrity and an sure sense of structure.
The ASO's next King's Hall concert is on Sunday 29th June.
A capacity audience welcomed the ASO for this Sunday afternoon "Classical Spectacular" conducted and introduced by John Anderson. Franz von Suppe's Light Cavalry Overture with its brass fanfares and rousing march theme opened the programme. Prokofiev's complex score for the ballet Romeo and Juliet is technically demanding for the most experienced professional orchestral musicians. The listener could be pardoned for not realising this, given the ASO's polished performance of the stirring Montagues and Capulets number beginning with that cataclysmic orchestral tutti before the famous Dance of the Knights theme played here with strength and virility.
Composer Max Bruch is really known for just one classical "pop" - his beautiful Violin Concerto No 1 in G Minor. It's probably a safe bet that very few will have heard of Bruch's Kol Nidrei - Adagio on Hebrew Melodies for Cello and Orchestra. Tim Baker the ASO's principal cellist was the expressive soloist who infused this haunting miniature with such tenderness and depth of feeling. The concert returned to familiar territory with much loved excerpts from Grieg's incidental music for Peer Gynt including Morning, and In the Hall of the Mountain King.
The second half opened with an energised performance of the exotic Polovtsian Dances from Borodin's opera Prince Igor. A brief visit to Vienna followed with Franz Lehar's charming Gold and Silver Waltz, played here with a sure sense of the Viennese idiom - and with all repeats observed. Tchaikovsky's March Slave, a tumultuous expression of 19th Century Russian jingoism, closed the official programme. But there was a surprise encore in store: the ASO delighted this family audience with their performance of Klaus Badelt's heroic music for the film Pirates of the Caribbean.