This historic late-Georgian church is in Great George Street, close to Leeds Town Hall and the palatial Gothic Revival buildings of Leeds General Infirmary. The famous St George’s Crypt charity has given support and shelter to destitute and otherwise vulnerable people in the city ever since 1930. The crypt was originally built as a burial chamber underneath the church.

The resonant auditorium, with its impressive full-width timbered roof, easily accommodates the huge orchestra required for the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss and Leoš Janáček’s thrilling Sinfonietta.

Leeds Symphony Orchestra (the LSO) opened with a rare outing for Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony No 8 in B minor, plus the 3rd and 4th movements realised by Schubert scholar Brian Newbould.

LSO conductor John Lyon explained to the audience that the last time he started to conduct this famous work was at Sheffield Cathedral in July 2023. That performance had to be abandoned when the heavens opened and torrential rain began cascading in through the roof and main entrance doors.

Fortunately, last Saturday evening was blessed with fine weather, except for Schubert’s appropriately stormy 1st and 2nd movements. John Lyon’s expansive tempi allowed the mystery of Schubert’s much loved music to unfold in all its splendour. John drew polished playing from all sections of his large orchestra built on seven double basses. Those beautifully shaped woodwind solos deserve a special mention. Professor Newbould’s conjectural 3rd and 4th movements perhaps do not sit comfortably with Schubert’s original. Be that as it may, listening to them on this occasion proved a rewarding experience.

Vier Letzte Lieder - Four Last Songs - for soprano soloist and large orchestra are composer Richard Strauss’s serenely beautiful farewell to life. Soprano Georgie Malcolm produced a spectrum of vocal colours cushioned by the fulsome LSO strings, silken woodwind, mellow horns and a soaring solo violin in Beim Schlafengehen - Going to Sleep. In the final song, Im Abendrot - At Sunset, the trilling of piccolos depict a pair of skylarks rising into the haze. The poet asks: “Is this perhaps death?”

Janáček’s glorious Sinfonietta with additional on stage trumpets, trombones and tubas brought the concert to a blazing conclusion.

Leeds Symphony Orchestra’s next concert takes place at St Margaret’s Church, Ilkley, on Saturday 6th July at 7.30pm.