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Review: Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra, at Adrian Boult Hall

Though it performs to the highest professional standards, and has many adept professional musicians among its ranks, the Birmingham Philharmonic is nominally an amateur orchestra, and perhaps as an amateur orchestra is able to take more risks in programming than other ensembles would dare.

Though it performs to the highest professional standards, and has many adept professional musicians among its ranks, the Birmingham Philharmonic is nominally an amateur orchestra, and perhaps as an amateur orchestra is able to take more risks in programming than other ensembles would dare.

So Sunday afternoon’s concert introduced us to a delicious rarity, the two Mendelssohn Konzertstucke for two clarinets and orchestra. Historical provenance is tricky, with the more mellow basset-horns in the original frame, but whatever the case, these are captivating pieces, and could not have found more persuasive advocates than BPO members Alastair Moseley and Tom Caldecote.

Their tones and intonation were impeccably blended (not their fault that two clarinets duetting sound like a woody accordion), their virtuosity flowed with liquid generosity, and Michael Lloyd conducted a BPO impeccably alert in its accompanying.

Much meatier stuff came in the second half with Shostakovichj’s knife-edge Symphony no.5. There were some problems with occasional upper-string frailty in these exposed lines, but Lloyd kept a tight grip on tension as these fraught paragraphs unfolded, and horns, heavy brass, and, in particular John Franklin’s coolly-rendered principal flute, added to the significance of this account.

And it was so good to hear Rossini’s Thieving Magpie Overture, even if in an overblown German edition which heavies up the brass but deprives us of theatrically stereophonic side-drums. Rossini needs to be played with immense style, and Lloyd’s BPO delivered ity in spades.

Rating * * * *

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