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Transfixed by brilliance!

Royal Northern Sinfonia/Jess Gillam, May 2024 review

The fine concert given by the Royal Northern Sinfonia on May 11th brought to an end a very successful season of concerts. The programme was in two distinct halves: two relatively unknown works in the first half, followed by Brahms’ wonderful Symphony No.1.

Elfrida Andree’s Concert Overture in D, which opened the programme, is very Mendelssohnian in style, but it was given a convincing performance by the orchestra directed with great panache by the energetic young conductor Chloé van Soeterstède. She is a commanding presence on the podium, and her balletic gestures certainly brought out the best in the orchestra.

Jess Gillam had us transfixed by the brilliance of her playing in Glazunov’s Saxophone Concerto. Her consummate technique and expressive playing drew such enthusiastic applause that she was recalled for an encore. In this, ‘Shine You No More’ by Rune Sorenson and the Danish String Quartet, her playing was even more brilliant and drew a standing ovation. (It’s good to know that Jess is about to record it.) The enjoyment of the orchestra and conductor in playing this piece was visibly obvious, with smiles all round.

Brahms’ mighty First Symphony is a demanding work: lengthy and so ingeniously crafted, it requires great attention to detail from players and conductor, but this is exactly what we experienced. Chloé van Soeterstède had a clear understanding of the work’s structure, and her attention to detail was remarkable. In her pacing, shaping of phrases and her approach to the climaxes, she brought the work alive, and the players responded with some fine playing. There were many lovely solo passages from sectional principals, all graciously acknowledged by the conductor when the performance came to an end.

Again, we were reminded what a treasure we have in the Royal Northern Sinfonia, and it is good to know that the Lakeland Sinfonia’s long-running partnership with the orchestra is to continue under the guise of Kendal Classics.

Clive Walkley

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