This group of nine string players has a reputation for imaginative programming that includes, as well as standard classical fare, music whose roots are world-wide and folk inspired. Communication with their audience is very immediate, not only in the way they project themselves as players but also in the witty compèring of the show by cellist Chris Grist.
The first half of concert began with Mozart’s Divertimento in D K136. This ‘easy’ piece is a favourite with school orchestras; I’ve done it more than once with youngsters but with nothing like the finesse and imagination displayed by this group. Their phrasing and bowing were so imaginative, what could have been a run–through of a familiar minor classic became a newly-minted joy.
The Elgar Serenade for Strings is a major classic. In the outer movements, whilst not underplaying their essentially wistful nature the playing was rhythmically alive and alert. The slow movement is the highlight of the piece and was beautifully and glowingly done. That just nine players could match memories of Barbirolli and the Hallè was remarkable.
The Mendelssohn Tenth String Symphony offers fewer opportunities for a nuanced approach but the Bartok Romanian Folk Dances certainly do and all their colouristic aspects were engagingly projected.
The music after the interval was all folk-inspired, either Gypsy or Argentinian. The sound of strings, and the violin in particular is the essence of Hungarian Magyar music and the performances were full of fire, the leader, Adam Summerhayes completely at home with the style in his virtuosic solos. Yet the Piazzolla items were as convincing despite their less authentic garb, especially in their version of Libertango with its ear-tickling percussive string effects to spice the texture.
With this concert David Pyett’s long tenure as Chairman of the Ilkley Concert Club came to an end, but he will continue to advise and inspire in his new role as President. So no regrets, this was a celebratory evening and the London Concertante did him proud.