OWING to something of a transportation nightmare on their way to York, the ensemble found themselves without concert dress at the start of last Saturday's concert.

Unfazed, they played brilliantly in jumpers and jeans, professionalism and enthusiasm intact, and playful exchanges between the concertino violins in Corelli’s Concerto grosso in D major were executed with charm and grace.

One player was unfortunately also delayed, so a significant reordering of the programme was required. Consequently, next up was Arvo Pärt’s ever-popular Fratres. An arresting piece played with serene control, it still felt a little out of place, having been shifted from its original position as second half opener to a slightly less flattering spot between the Corelli and Handel’s buoyant Gloria, replete with soprano Julia Doyle’s stunning coloratura.

York Press:

Soprano soloist Julia Doyle. Picture: Raphaelle Photography

A series of satisfying segues joined Charpentier’s Nöels sur les Instruments, Purcell’s Sweeter Than Roses and The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation, and Michel-Richard de Lalande’s Symphonies de Noel together. Julia Doyle dazzled again in the two songs, taking Purcell’s variously lyrical, disjointed, and virtuosic lines in her stride.

The orchestra were at their sparkling and original best again in the second Corelli Concerto grosso, written ‘for Christmas Eve.’ Corelli’s delicious chains of suspensions were played richly and intuitively, and the ensemble – now dressed in black – danced easily as one through some quite adventurous tempo changes. The evening confirmed, however, that a group of this quality might as well dress however they like.

Review by Claire McGinn