West London Sinfonia/Philip Hesketh – Cinderella & Swan Lake – Barry Yardley plays John Carmichael’s Trumpet Concerto

Cinderella, Op.87 – Suite No.1, Op.107
John Carmichael
Trumpet Concerto [UK premiere]
Swan Lake, Op.20 – Act IV

Barry Yardley (trumpet)

West London Sinfonia
Philip Hesketh

Reviewed by: Jens Fredriksen

Reviewed: 21 November, 2015
Venue: St Michael and All Angels Church, Bedford Park, London

John Carmichael (b. 1930)Photograph: www.australianmusiccentre.com.auHow is it that non-professional orchestras sound so good? In the spacious St Michael’s Church the West London Sinfonia and Philip Hesketh (its director for two-and-a-half decades) provided an evening of music performed with great skill and remarkable accuracy, the players responding fully to the conductor’s expressive phrasing. The orchestra boasts a reasonable number of strings including 12 first-violins although there was some lack of numbers in the viola and the double bass sections.

Suite No.1 from Prokofiev’s score for the Cinderella ballet is demanding to execute but it certainly made a great impact here. Internal balance within the woodwind section was excellent and the quirky syncopated instances in the ‘Pas de châle’ were coped with easily.

The feature was John Carmichael’s Trumpet Concerto (1972). Carmichael (born 1930 in Melbourne) is firmly wedded to tonality and this Concerto finds the trumpet preceding or continuing the melodies with the orchestra rather than taking isolated solos. There is one cadenza, in the bright and spicily syncopated Finale. Carmichael’s scoring is imaginative; I was taken with the sections when he combines flute and harp and, come the cadenza, these instruments are used to accompany the soloist. The central Lento seemed particularly profound with soulful themes being comforted by the trumpet’s optimistic response. Barry Yardley is clearly very familiar with the work and he encompassed impressively its numerous facets.

The final Act of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake was performed with panache. Detail was admirable and, as throughout the concert, harpist Sophy Cartledge was superb. Special mention must also be made of the percussion section which had demanding passages in all three works and was precise, exciting and ideally forceful. Hesketh and his musicians were clearly at one and he built a tremendous climax in the Tchaikovsky, the point at which the famous theme which permeates the score blazes out in a major key is one of the great moments and it was all the more remarkable on this occasion as the huge volume of sound, ideally balanced, reached its peak, enhanced by the resonant acoustic. Amid all this power and brilliance, inner detail remained clear. London has a wealth of amateur orchestras and the West London Sinfonia is a very fine example.

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