Airedale Symphony Orchestra, Victoria Hall, Saltaire, Sunday 20th January 2019

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.

Geoffrey Mogridge