REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Will Clark and Hilary Suckling, BMS York, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York

Will Clark: Former leader of National Youth Orchestra, now studying at Royal Academy of Music

BOTH players of international reputation, this violin and piano duo can truly be claimed as York’s own.

Although based in London, Will Clark grew up and nurtured his talents here. Hilary Suckling has made York her home, so their local connexions are impeccable. Sonatas by Mozart and Brahms framed shorter works by Ysaӱe and Britten and offered satisfying variety.

Will’s appearance is deceptive. Sporting a pseudo-drag persona, with dramatically painted eyebrows above decorated waistcoat and tight black trousers, all evocative of the bull ring, he can be distracting.

It takes the average punter a few minutes to be able to concentrate on his actual playing. But it is worth the effort. Beneath the veneer lurks a thoughtful and highly proficient violinist. Sometimes he is even better than that.

The duo’s Mozart, K.454 in B flat, was unremarkable, but it offered a solidly constructed warm-up for what was to come. Clark used minimal vibrato, but it did not detract from the Andante’s cantabile line.

The closing rondo was light on its toes, occasionally even witty, as Suckling intelligently adjusted her tone after a first movement where balance had been an intermittent problem.

It was good to hear Eugène Ysaӱe’s Poème élégiaque, Op 12 in its original version, rather than the better-known adaptation for orchestra. Although very much a display piece, it remains at heart a lament, apparently in reaction to Romeo and Juliet, and the duo wisely concentrated on this. So the dramatic centrepiece became a display of anger at bereavement and the closing violin recitative conveyed a touching solemnity.

Although the Britten was described as three pieces from the Suite, Op 6, the composer ultimately distilled it down to just these three, which were the only ones first unveiled in the Wigmore Hall in 1934 (albeit revised the following year).

The opening ‘March’ was jaunty with the succeeding ‘Lullaby’ an extreme contrast, very slow and sad; Clark’s high line was impeccable. The final ‘Waltz’ was exactly right: virtuosically explosive.

Brahms’s third and last Violin Sonata, Op 108 in D minor, opens with a remarkable rhapsodic Allegro. Suckling’s piano here was admirably subdued, especially given the weightiness of the composer’s writing, before the duo became excitingly fiery. There was some lovely rubato in the slow movement.

A feel of Mendelssohnian politeness infused the scherzo, but that evaporated in the thrilling final Presto. Even here Clark allowed his violin to do the talking, rather than indulge in the sort of histrionics his appearance might have suggested.

Clark returns to this hall on March 30 as soloist in the Sibelius Violin Concerto with York Symphony Orchestra: on this showing, strongly recommended.

Review by Martin Dreyer, 16/2/2024

York Barbican confirms five new concerts with Tony Blackburn to host one of them

Tony Blackburn: BBC Radio 2 presenter and host of Sound Of The 60s Live at York Barbican. Copyright: BBC

YORK Barbican has five new concerts in the diary for autumn and early 2023.

York Guildhall Orchestra are booked in for October 15 and February 11; the York Community Carol Concert for December 12; The Classic Rock Show for March 14 and Tony Blackburn: Sound Of The 60s Live for March 23.

The first concert of York Guildhall Orchestra’s 42nd season will welcome back Will Clark, who played with the orchestra as a youngster, to perform as the soloist for the Vaughan Williams centrepiece. Returning too will be old friends Leeds Festival Chorus for works by Lambert and Fauré, and the finale will be Marquez’s Danzón No. 2.

The Guildhall Orchestra’s February concert will feature Leeds Festival Chorus in an all-Beethoven programme comprising a show-stopping symphony, two overtures and a setting of two Goethe poems, Meeresstille und Glückliche Farht (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage).

The Leeds choir will join the orchestra for the Hallelujah Chorus from Beethoven’s oratorio, Christ On The Mount Of Olives.

The York Community Carol Concert continues to draw full houses after 64 years. Hosted by the Reverend Andrew Foster and BBC Radio York presenter Adam Tomlinson, the festive event for all ages will bring together York choirs and musicians to perform favourite carols and Christmas songs under the musical direction of Mike Pratt.

Concert proceeds will be shared by the Lord Mayor of York and Sheriff of York’s Christmas Cheer Fund and Martin House Children’s Hospice, The Press’s nominated charity.

The Classic Rock Show vows to be “bigger and even better in 2023” when paying tribute to such favourites as Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, The Who, Eric Clapton, AC/DC, Queen, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and many more.

Performed with note-for-note precision, the show brings era-defining recordings back to life on stage, with a sound and light show to match, culminating in a show-stopping guitar duel.

Next March, veteran BBC Radio 2 presenter Tony Blackburn, 79, will host an evening of 60s’ classics performed live by the Sound Of The 60s All Star Band and singers. Songs by The Everly Brothers, Dusty Springfield, The Kinks, Elvis Presley, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Otis Redding, The Beatles and The Who will be to the fore.

Tickets are on sale at and