Under the then music directorship of Kenneth Page, the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra many decades ago launched a complete survey of all the Mahler symphonies, of which perhaps the greatest coup was performing no.8, the “Symphony of a Thousand”, in London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Very early in the 1970s I reviewed these forces playing the First Symphony in Birmingham Town Hall. It was certainly exciting, but one had to make allowances for these amateurs.
No such need last Sunday, when the BPO returned and now under the expert baton of Michael Lloyd, completing the cycle with the massive Third Symphony, the longest symphony in the regular repertoire.
The BPO these days plays with great depth of tone, near-perfect intonation (though some woodwind combinations need sharper ears), wonderfully-delivered articulation and phrasing, and a platform discipline which would put some world-strutting professional orchestras I have witnessed to shame.
Choral contributions were disappointing, the Ladies of the City of Birmingham Choir genteely under-projecting, the charming youngsters of Wolverhampton’s St Peter’s Collegiate Church Choir lethargic instead of cheeky in their “Bimm, Bamm” utterances.
But in Hannah Pedley we had a remarkable mezzo soloist, her tones well-focussed and well-rounded, her presence such a sympathetic factor in this rewarding enterprise.