Review: Ilkley Philharmonic Orchestra, All Saints Parish Church Ilkley, Sunday 9th June 2024

ILKLEY’S new community orchestra established in 2023 by conductor John Anderson is steadily developing a distinctive programming style.

The current strength of 35 players precludes the big beasts of the orchestral repertoire. Audiences are instead offered opportunities to explore the highways and byways of classical composers: notably Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Haydn and Mozart. Proceedings were off to a thrilling start with Rossini’s Overture to his opera Semiramide.

A rarely performed Sinfonia Concertante in E Flat for Four Winds, thought to be by Mozart formed the centrefold of an enticing programme. Section principals Chris Garbutt (oboe) Gina Cockshott (clarinet) and Rosemary Anderson (bassoon) were joined in front of the orchestra by guest soloist Simon Twigge (horn) and conductor John Anderson for the Sinfonia Concertante. Today’s performing version is a reconstruction of what is thought to be a “lost” Mozart work. Doubts however persist as to its authenticity not least because the three movements are all in the same key of E flat. All of Mozart’s concertos, except those for french horn, are composed with one movement in a related key. Nonetheless, the Sinfonia Concertante made for a delightful listen; played here with a tangible sense of enjoyment by the four soloists and Ilkley Philharmonic Orchestra.

There is of course not a shred of doubt about the provenance of Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony No 6 in F, played after the interval. The four movements are headed: cheerful Impressions awakened by arrival in the countryside, scene by a brook, merry gathering of country folk, a storm and shepherd’s thanksgiving after the storm.

Beethoven’s love of nature shone through the Ilkley Philharmonic’s rustling strings and woodwind bird calls but above all in his depiction of a raging storm. John Anderson and the Ilkley Philharmonic conveyed the elemental fury of the storm with braying woodwind, blaring brass surging strings and thunderous timpani. A welcome deluge of applause followed the orchestra’s expansive performance of the shepherd’s song with its infinitely extendable opening motiff.