Review: Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra and Bradford Festival Choral Society at St George’s Hall, Bradford, Saturday, April 29, 2023

This eagerly awaited choral and orchestral event attracted an enthusiastic and appreciative audience of over 800. The largest attendance for any classical concert here since pre-covid times and surely an encouraging sign for the future. The evening had a certain historical significance because it marked both Bradford Festival Choral Society’s return to St George’s Hall after a long absence and the Bradford debut of a revived Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra.

The evening opened on a note of regal pomp and ceremony with two of Handel’s Coronation Anthems, conducted by Thomas Leech, BFCS chorus master. Zadok The Priest built up from a tense orchestral introduction to the full-throated power of its thrilling choral entry. The King Shall Rejoice although more complex in structure, was performed by choir and orchestra with crystalline clarity.

Ben Crick, the (new) Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra’s founder-conductor and artistic director, stepped up to the podium for the remainder of the programme. Elgar’s delightful Introduction and Allegro Opus 47, for string orchestra, sounded so much more than merely a programme filler, given the buoyancy and elegance of this performance.

Mozart’s much loved Requiem occupied the second half. Or perhaps I should describe this late masterpiece as a Requiem by Mozart and others, since he was too ill to finish the work. Franz Xaver Süssmayr’s now familiar completion almost sounds as if spiritually linked to Mozart’s supremely operatic style of writing.

A finely blended quartet of soloists was made up of soprano Lorna James, alto Hannah Mason and tenor Joseph Doody. The young singers were underpinned by the dark, incisive timbre of leading American bass James Cresswell.

Soloists, chorus and orchestra amounted to 150 performers. This was a performance on a grand scale and yet orchestral and vocal textures were unfailingly crisp, clear and carefully balanced. Ben Crick’s interpretation beautifully captured the drama, the pathos and yes, the anger in this haunting work.

Audiences have a unique opportunity to experience Mozart’s iconic Requiem “reimagined” by Opera North and Phoenix Dance Theatre, at Leeds Grand Theatre on May 26th & 30th, June 1st, 3rd & 4th.