Review: Airedale Symphony Orchestra, King’s Hall, Ilkley - Sunday, June 30, 2019

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