Westmorland Orchestra, Westmorland Hall, Kendal Leisure Centre

THE Westmorland Orchestra’s concert opened in fine style with a robustious performance of Shostakovich’s Festive Overture. It is a bombastic, ‘busy’ but tuneful piece - an ideal concert opener, as its title suggests. The orchestra immediately impressed with the brass players blazing out the composer’s fanfares with great assurance. There was no slackening of pace as the rest of the orchestra joined in with equal skill; indeed the degree of rhythmic precision was impressive throughout.

Following this, the distinguished young violinist, Jennifer Pike, joined the orchestra for a performance of Dvorak’s Violin Concerto. Jennifer now has a worldwide reputation and listening to her it is not difficult to see why. She has, of course, an immaculate technique; she produces a warm rich tone in melodic passages and dazzles when called upon to deliver virtuoso-style passage work. Her interaction with the orchestra was lovely. There was a slight problem of balance in the second movement when the woodwind are in counterpoint with the soloist playing very low in the violin’s register, but this may have been a miscalculation on the composer’s part rather the orchestra’s failure to match the soloist.

After the interval, we heard Tchaikovsky’s fourth Symphony. Again the brass players distinguished themselves in their opening fanfares. In the slow movement, it was the woodwinds’ turn to impress as sectional principals sang out Tchaikovsky’s lyrical, melancholic melodies. Then, in the third movement, a fast Scherzo, came the strings chance to shine; their rapid pizzicato playing was kept well under control by conductor, Richard Howarth. The whole symphony was brought to a triumphant conclusion, drawing an enthusiastic response from the audience.

It was heartening to see young students from local schools in the audience but, given extensive publicity, a world class soloist and a very approachable programme, it was disheartening to see many empty seats which should have been filled. The Westmorland Orchestra reaches high standards and the commitment and dedication of the players deserves our support.

Clive Walkley