Review: Ilkley Chamber Orchestra, All Saints Parish Church, Ilkley, Saturday 18th February 2024

 Ilkley Chamber Orchestra’s third concert of its inaugural season drew a large and appreciative audience to All Saints.

The bill of fair was entirely drawn from composers born in the 17th century.

Conductor John Anderson and his orchestra opened with a belated Christmas present for the audience. Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in G minor, opus 6, number 8 completed around 1690 is known as the Christmas Concerto and remains one of Corelli‘s most popular works. Soloists drawn from the orchestra were Sally Robinson and Alison Rignall (violins) with Zoe Long (cello).

Next came Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D, which calls for a solo group comprising violin, flute and harpsichord. I first heard this piece with a huge string section, decades ago in the era of ‘big band Bach’.  So Ilkley Chamber Orchestra’s crystal clear performance with just 15 strings was a revelation. The soloists were Sally Robinson, Tracey Smurthwaite (flute) and Darius Battiwalla (harpsichord).

After the interval came The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi with guest soloist Andy Long. He is an associate leader of the Orchestra of Opera North. Each Season is depicted by a concerto in three movements for solo violin and string orchestra. Andy chatted about Vivaldi’s genius for creating descriptive seasonal sounds. The players duly demonstrated on their instruments, sound effects including a summer storm with hailstones, barking dogs, winter frost and even chattering teeth!

Andy’s performance with the Ilkley Chamber Orchestra and conductor John Anderson communicated such energy and joi de vivre. It felt like hearing this famous work anew. Afterwards, a couple of teenage first time concertgoers told me how they have been blown away by the experience.

Review: Ilkley Chamber Orchestra, All Saints Parish Church, Ilkley, Saturday 28th October 2023

 Ilkley’s profuse cultural offer has gained a new dimension in last July’s debut of this professional ensemble of 25 players, founded and conducted by John Anderson. Ilkley Chamber Orchestra is committed to excellence in performance of the baroque and classical repertoire.

The Suite from the opera-ballet Les Indes Galantes (The Amorous Indies) by Jean-Philippe Rameau is a case in point. This ‘Ballet Heroique’ was created in 1735 and staged with sumptuous sets, costumes and stage machinery. The textural richness of Rameau’s music for the theatre and his ability to surprise the listener is as evident today as it must have seemed almost 300 years earlier. John Anderson who also tapped and banged a small drum in the Suite’s entertaining 1st movement, maintained optimum instrumental balance. The string sound had warmth while the woodwind and brass detailing was beautifully pointed.

Next up, Haydn’s Cello Concerto No 1 in C major with Kim Mackrell as the soloist. Fortunately, this engaging work was re-discovered as recently as 1961 after two centuries of obscurity. The concerto exudes energy while soaring through beautiful melodies built upon elaborate harmonies. Haydn’s orchestration is quite light – strings plus just two each of oboes and horns. The soloist is free to display a spectrum of colours without being subsumed by the orchestra. This Kim Mackrell did in kaleidoscopic abundance as her bowing and fingering mined the range of the instrument.

Mozart had hoped that his last three great symphonies would be performed as a set. Ilkley Chamber Orchestra ended their July concert with No 40. Last Saturday evening, John Anderson and his Orchestra delighted the audience with a crisp, polished performance of arguably the greatest, Symphony No 41 in C, known as the ‘Jupiter’.

An orchestra of this calibre, if it is to become a permanent addition to Ilkley’s musical landscape, will need sponsorship and an element of public funding. Ilkley Chamber Orchestra’s next concert is on Sunday 18th February, at All Saints Parish Church.

Review: Ilkley Chamber Orchestra, All Saints Parish Church, Ilkley, Saturday 22nd July 2023

 Last Saturday’s inaugural concert of the newly formed Ilkley Chamber Orchestra created a frisson of excitement in Ilkley’s All Saints Parish Church.

This brand new orchestra is the brainchild of conductor John Anderson who needs absolutely no introduction to Ilkley audiences. Ilkley Chamber Orchestra will focus more on the baroque and classical repertoire. Long gone are the days of ‘big band’ Bach, Mozart and Schubert, as this concert amply demonstrated. Ilkley Chamber Orchestra conducted by John Anderson opened with a beautifully poised performance of Schubert’s Symphony No 5 in B flat, the most ‘Mozartian’ of his early symphonies.

The Concerto in D minor for two violins and string orchestra by JS Bach with Sally Robinson and Alison Rignall as the soloists formed the centrefold of the programme. The clarity of instrumental textures highlighted delightful counterpoint between the main body of strings and the soloists in the lively acoustic of All Saints. Mozart’s Symphony No 40 in G minor occupied the second half of the evening. This is the most darkly dramatic of his last three great symphonies. Nowhere more so than in the ominous first movement and the blazing finale. A warm and enthusiastic response from the capacity audience bodes well for future Ilkley Chamber Orchestra concerts.