SPORTING red roses, York Guildhall Orchestra delivered a full programme last Saturday evening for their Valentine’s Day Special concert, which was also broadcast live on York Hospital Radio.

The first of three excellent soloists, Rebecca Taylor’s graceful phrasing in the Andante from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, “Elvira Madigan”, was a delight.

Soprano Céline Forrest later joined Taylor in Mozart’s concert aria Ch’io mi scordi di te. Both displayed a delicate tone in embellished lines, despite the effusive text’s indulgence.

Forrest and tenor Oliver Johnston added some welcome theatrical touches to a semi-staged scene from Puccini’s La bohème. Projecting powerfully over passionate orchestral swells, the enraptured lovers sang their final calls of "Amor!" while leaving the stage together.

The orchestra responded enthusiastically again to Forrest and Johnston’s tender phrasing in a selection from Bernstein’s West Side Story. Johnston demonstrated an engaging expressive range here, including a velvety falsetto. There were smiles – and champagne flutes– all round for their encore of Verdi’s Libiamo ne' lieti calici, although one wanted to hear much more of Taylor’s sensitive playing too.

Elsewhere, conductor Simon Wright coaxed steady tempi from the orchestra in Wagner, Elgar and Prokofiev, finishing with a jazzy, slinkier edge in Ravel’s Bolero.

Well suited though the York Barbican may be to as large an audience as the orchestra received, the auditorium seems less suited to orchestral balance, particularly for projection in lower registers. It was a treat, then, to find 12 cellos sounding so melodious in the bar afterwards.

- James Whittle