Review: Royal Northern Sinfonia, Ryedale Festival Final Gala Concert, Hovingham Hall, July 28

RYEDALE Festival’s traditional closing gala concert with the Royal Northern Sinfonia was, as usual, a fittingly festive evening, with superb performances.

Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto was imbued with a coherent narrative. In the tense first movement, soloist Julian Bliss’s cadenza came across as a moment of emotional crisis, artfully unresolved, leading to an Adagio powerfully communicating the bewilderment of bereavement and, eventually, quiet resignation. After these emotional depths, the lighter finale was given enough gravity to be upbeat without sounding incongruous.

Cantator and Amanda by Roxanna Panufnik, Ryedale Festival’s composer in residence, received its first outing in a brand-new arrangement for bassoon and string orchestra. For me, it worked on every level: comprehensibly structured, inventive, idiomatic in its instrumental writing, and lucidly depicting a touching story without overstatement or overworking the musical material. Soloist Amy Harman and the orchestra seemed utterly convinced by this novel tone-poem, from its pulsing opening portrait of Amanda and the development of love (as the protagonists begin to finish each other’s sentences), through the panic of elopement and capture, to Amanda’s final lament.

Haydn’s witty Oxford Symphony, conducted by the orchestra’s lead violinist, the irrepressible Bradley Creswick, was a joy from the mysterious expectancy of the introduction to the trumpets and drums of the exciting close. Unexpected harmonic twists and rhythmic games were relished, especially in the third movement’s central trio. Hovingham Hall’s acoustics, and the pleasure of interval drinks on the lawn, make it a perfect setting for this annual treat.

Robert Gammon