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Review: Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra, at Adrian Boult Hall Birmingham

Guest conductor Richard Laing delivered this truly exciting programme, beginning with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture, opened by sombre well-placed woodwind chords eventually leading into not quite quiet enough beginnings for the difficult-to-pace heart rending long crescendos: be braver.

Guest conductor Richard Laing delivered this truly exciting programme, beginning with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture, opened by sombre well-placed woodwind chords eventually leading into not quite quiet enough beginnings for the difficult-to-pace heart rending long crescendos: be braver. Much more contrast needed, otherwise ‘bland/safe’ comes to mind. Great brass however, with splendid percussion ‘sword fights’.

Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde is a masterpiece of orchestral manoeuvring, hitching up the tension key by key from nothing to frenetic with sweeping broad phrases. Cellos to-the-fore were somewhat inhibited for red-hot Wagner, but nevertheless secure and fulsome. Lovely solo work from oboe Anne Hagyard, contrasted beautifully throughout the programme with Owen Gregory’s rich cor anglais.

Why, oh why is the word amateur so avoided by musicians who love what they are doing?

Wonderful romanticism echoes forever in the heart of his Second Symphony creating hard work, enough to challenge everyone, but totally worthwhile and deeply satisfying. Smoke rose from strings in this, the final work by the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra in a truly passionate concert. A heart-felt WOW syndrome, with the gutsy fugal passage in the second movement leading into a haunting, broad melody with the occasional tantalising solos: violin, woodwind, horns – not forgetting a lovely clarinet solo in the luscious 15 minute adagio movement – splendid!

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