Review: Academy of St Olave’s, St Olave’s Church, Marygate, York, January 26

THE Academy of St Olave’s came together in the stunning setting of St Olave’s Church on Saturday night to celebrate director Alan George’s tenth season as musical director.

Weber’s Oberon Overture got the concert off to an engaging start. After a somewhat hesitant opening, the ensemble relaxed as the piece increased in pace and dynamic and they gave an appropriately playful and joyous account, the pleasing melodies swapping seamlessly between the winds and strings throughout.

Surprisingly, Sibelius only wrote one concerto, but it is a truly gorgeous work – a perfect example of doing one thing really well. Jacob George – son of Alan – shone in his role as soloist, bringing expressive passion and a strikingly rich tone to the work, with sensitive accompaniment from the Academy. The cadenza of the first movement was a particular highlight; George plays with the assured confidence of a seasoned performer.

This was followed by some of the most recognisable music in the repertoire: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. Undaunted by the work’s prominence, the Academy embraced its dramatic potential. The first movement was suitably stormy – and taken at an impressively brisk tempo – while the lyrical swells of the second movement contrasted nicely with the liveliness of the third movement’s Scherzo. The orchestra responded enthusiastically to the challenges of the exhilarating fourth movement, their stately delivery triumphantly closing the programme.

The delight that Alan George and the Academy take from this music is obvious and the evening’s success is a fitting tribute to his ten-year tenure,

Alice Masterson