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Lakeland Sinfonia March 2023 review

The Lakeland Sinfonia was in fine form on Saturday evening, March 18. Sadly, the orchestra’s regular conductor, Philip Ellis, was unwell, and his place was taken by the young Singaporean conductor, Melvin Tay. The rarely-heard overture ‘The Fair Melusine’ by Mendelssohn got the concert off to a good start. One particular feature of the orchestra’s playing that was outstanding throughout the evening was the rhythmic precision obviously insisted on by this dynamic conductor. The players clearly enjoyed working with him and responded to his direction.

            Throughout the evening there were many moments to treasure: a solid string sound and delightful solo passages from the woodwind to name but two. But perhaps for many, the highlight of the evening was the performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Patrick Hemmerlé as soloist. He brought a fresh approach to this well-known work. Having made a careful study of Schumann’s metronome markings, he chose a much faster speed in the first two movements than that adopted by many soloists. This made a lot of sense, particularly in the second movement marked Intermezzo Andante gracioso. The faster tempo emphasised the light-hearted Intermezzo style; this movement can sound too ponderous if taken too slowly. The cellos made a beautiful sound as they unfolded the broad, sweeping melody of the second main theme and Patrick’s Hemmerlé’s playing of Schumann’s cadenza was electrifying. Greeted by enthusiastic applause, he was called back to the stage three times and played as his encore Schumann’s lovely Träumerei from the composer’s children’s suite Kinderscenen. Again, a faster tempo was adopted but this did not detract from his poetic performance.

            The energy and rhythmic precision of the playing which had been such a feature during first half of the concert continued after the interval as Saint-Saens’ second symphony brought the concert to a successful conclusion. Why is this work so little-known, one wonders? This was a fine performance marking out the skill of the mainly local players who make up the Lakeland Sinfonia.

                                                                                                                                         Clive Walkley

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