Kings Hall, Ilkley, Sunday 19th November 2023

MacCunn, Dvorak, Price, Beethoven

Wow what an amazing relaunch concert for the Airedale Symphony Orchestra on Sunday 19 November! After eight months away from performing, the orchestra and concert audience made up for lost time with great music and enthusiastic support for our local musicians.

A sell out performance meant an overflow audience was invited to sit in the Winter Gardens next to the King's Hall, with doors wide open to allow everyone to hear if not see the music! The atmosphere was electric as our friendly local orchestra performed works spanning the decades. Cello soloist Douglas Badger played the Dvorak Cello Concerto with great passion, it was wonderful to see 'The Oak' by Florence Price in a rare performance alongside the uber famous Beethoven 5. Plus there were some excellent cakes on offer during the interval!

Feedback from from the audience

'Excellent concert. I particularly enjoyed the cello concerto and the Florence Price piece was also excellent- a real revelation. There was some really sensitive playing. Woodwind section playing was v impressive.' Les Goldman

'I’m a newbie to coming to Airedale Symphony Orchestra events - and I’m not very musical myself. I was totally lifted up and inspired by the evening. I loved the range of music and for the first time ever, the emotion and drama of classical music gave me goosebumps: a physical reaction to the power of music. It totally opened my eyes to the power of live classical music. A wonderful night and I will be coming back for more!' Hilary Carter

'Such an amazing concert last night, great atmosphere, great musicians and a very happy audience, thrilled with the programme!' Jane Golden

'Best cello concerto (performed very well by Mr Badger). Most famous symphony (where the orchestra really came into its own and played with a polished sheen to the sound)' Edward Whelan

Thank you to everyone involved in making this such a special afternoon - the musicians, our super conductor Ben Crick, amazing soloist Douglas Badger, and the enormous, and enormously enthusiastic audience!

King’s Hall, Ilkley, Sunday 13th March 2022

Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky

THE war in Ukraine somewhat shifted the focus of Sunday’s concert. A redesigned programme cover featured the Ukrainian flag set against delicate pink blossom.

An audience of 300 rose to its feet for the besieged country’s National Anthem. The words were helpfully printed in the programme in both Ukrainian and English. Felix Mendelssohn’s elegiac Hebrides Overture was dedicated to solidarity and friendship with the Ukrainian people.

The piano concertos of Sergei Prokofiev are among the most technically demanding of 20th century masterworks. William Green is a young Bradford born pianist, now Swiss based, at the Lucerne Opera House as a répétiteur. William’s absolute mastery of Prokofiev’s delightful Piano Concerto No 3 in C dazzled the King’s Hall audience. Conductor John Anderson and the Airedale Symphony rose, with seeming effortlessness, to the virtuosic demands of the orchestral score with its spiky dissonances and sudden tempo changes......

The Airedale Symphony’s impassioned performance of this most emotional and grief-laden of works spoke to the listener as only great music can speak. A minute’s silence before a deluge of applause afforded reflection on the human suffering and the destruction unleashed by Vladimir Putin’s crimes of aggression in Ukraine. The bucket collection afterwards raised £1400 towards the Ukrainian Red Cross Appeal.

Geoffrey Mogridge

King’s Hall, Ilkley, Sunday 21st November 2021

Humperdinck, Sibelius, Beethoven

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Leeds Town Hall, Saturday 29th February 2020

With Leeds Philharmonic Chorus


Jerome Kern’s 1920s musical Showboat ignited an electrifying evening. A medley of ‘hits’ contained within the Overture led into Ol’ Man River, pensively sung by baritone Neil Balfour and the Chorus. The Promise of Living from Aaron Copland’s opera The Tender Land was performed with blazing fervour by the chorus and ASO. Copland, who was dubbed “The Dean of American composers”, unforgettably conducted a Suite from The Tender Land in this very hall back in October 1976.

Leeds Philharmonic Chorus Master Joseph Judge then directed his unaccompanied choir in a finely nuanced performance of Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei. Next came Marietta’s sublime aria from Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City). This was sung with a gorgeous sense of line by soprano Sarah Power.

Composer Randall Thompson was represented by Choose Something Like a Star, from his Suite of Seven Country Songs for chorus and orchestra. Gershwin’s meandering jazz infused rhapsody An American in Paris showcased the full orchestral panoply - including a battery of percussion, five saxophones, and a trio of car horns! Part One ended with Make Our Garden Grow, the gloriously uplifting orchestral and choral finale from Bernstein’s operetta Candide.

Robert Russell Bennett’s forty minute-long concert arrangement of Gershwin’s folk opera Porgy and Bess filled Leeds Town Hall with light and colour. Familiar numbers like Summertime - ravishingly sung by Sarah Power; I Got Plenty of Nothing - a soft-grained performance from Neil Balfour, and Bess You is My Woman Now, were all featured. The casually dressed Leeds Philharmonic Chorus injected life and swaying movement into the big choruses like Gone, Gone, Gone; Overflow, I Ain’t Got No Shame, and The Promise’ Lan’. The stupendous finale Lawd, I’m On My Way was encored. Astonishingly, this was a first Leeds performance of Porgy and Bess. Surely, a fully staged production from our own trailblazing Opera North is long overdue.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday November 17 2019, King’s Hall, Ilkley

Dvorak, Grieg, Sibelius

CONDUCTOR John Anderson and the 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

Sunday June 30 2019, King’s Hall, Ilkley

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday April 7 2019, King’s Hall, Ilkley

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.

The 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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 20th January 2019, Victoria Hall, Saltaire

Berlioz, Beethoven,Tchaikovsky

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 delicate 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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 21st October 2018, Leeds Town Hall

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 24th June 2018, King's Hall, Ilkley

Family concert

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....... 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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 21st January 2018, Victoria Hall, Saltaire

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 the 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.

Geoffrey Mogridge 

Sunday 19th November 2017, King's Hall Ilkley

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Battle of the Somme film, Sunday 2nd July 2017 King's Hall, Ilkley

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 2nd April 2017 King's Hall, Ilkley

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 22nd January 2017 Victoria Hall, Saltaire

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 ... 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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 13th November 2016 King's Hall, Ilkley

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 26th June 2016 Victoria Hall, Saltaire

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 20th March 2016 King's Hall, Ilkley

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 15th November 2015 King's Hall, Ilkley

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 22 March 2015 King's Hall, Ilkley

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 9 November 2014 King's Hall, Ilkley

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge

Sunday 29 June 2014, King's Hall, Ilkley

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge       

Sunday 16 March 2014, King's Hall, Ilkley

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge