Review: Soloist and Sinfonia get the balance just right

The latest concert in the Lakeland Sinfonia Concert Society’s series took place in the Westmorland Hall, when the Lakeland Sinfonia featured works by Lennox Berkeley, Gerald Finzi, Haydn and Mozart. How fortunate the society is to have such a good pool of local players to draw upon for the two concerts given by this orchestra each season.

The programme opened with Lennox Berkeley’s Windsor Variations, not an easy work for the orchestra or for an audience on first hearing. Berkeley’s music is always well-crafted and although his pungent harmonies may not be to everyone’s taste, it was good to hear a work by this much neglected composer.

Italian pianist Alessandro Taverna's playing was beautifully controlled and clear.

Italian pianist Alessandro Taverna’s playing was beautifully controlled and clear.

Following this, the Italian pianist, Alessandro Taverna, joined the orchestra for a very accomplished, stylish account of Mozart’s B flat Piano Concerto (K595). Taverna is a not a flamboyant player and his playing was beautifully controlled and clear. Throughout, the balance with the orchestra was just right and there were some lovely interchanges of phrases between pianist and woodwind players in particular. Following this limpid Mozartian performance, Taverna showed his versatility by unexpectedly launching into Chopin’s Grande Valse Brilliante as an encore, delighting his audience in his display of pianist fireworks and finger dexterity.

Next, came Finzi’s pastoral-style Romance for Strings. Conductor, Philip Sunderland, coaxed a rich, strong tone from of his players, also managing to achieve the real pianissimo which the composer asks for in this work.
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Finally, the whole orchestra returned to the platform for Haydn’s cheerful Oxford symphony. The spirit of Haydn was very much in evidence in this performance. The work has moments of great beauty as Haydn asks for a sustained melodic line in his slower moving melodic passages; but it also needs to played with rhythmic precision and, above all, a great sense of fun. The performance had all these qualities; the energetic last movement was particularly impressive.

Clive Walkley