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Classical Review: Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra at Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham

It was unfortunate timing for the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra to have programmed Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier Suite for Sunday’s concert so soon after the CD release of the CBSO’s amazing account of it under Andris Nelsons.

It was unfortunate timing for the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra to have programmed Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier Suite for Sunday’s concert so soon after the CD release of the CBSO’s amazing account of it under Andris Nelsons.

Comparisons are really unfair, and the BPO’s performance had plenty of pluses; but you couldn’t avoid sensing just a mite of inhibition, and the absence of the final layer of glamour that should sheen over this score.

There were no such restraints for the final work of this impossibly extravagant programme, fielding an orchestra of huge proportions which not many professional outfits could afford to do on a regular basis: Rachmaninov’s Symphony no.3, combining Hollywood slickness from this ex-patriate with homesickness for Mother Russia – and the ever-present dances of death which cavorted around the composer’s idiosyncratic, mind.

Michael Lloyd, a generous, warm-hearted conductor, marshalled an impressively detailed, finely nuanced reading from his players, sometimes crackling, sometimes melting. Crisp woodwind deserve a mention.

But the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, delivered by BPO Patron Peter Donohoe with full-throated chording, clarity of line and articulation, and a genuine empathy with this orchestra which he later praised to the skies in conversation with me.

A recording of this memorable evening was being made: will it ever become available to the public, I wonder?

Rating: 4/5

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