One of the many good things going for the Birmingham Philharmonic is the encouraging spread of ages in its membership, wise experienced heads welcoming bright-eyed, bushy-tailed youngsters and coaching them in the ways of one of the greatest amateur orchestras in the country.
There is a downside, however, to the sheer popularity of the BPO. It has a simply massive string complement, and that leads to problems of balance and intonation; other possible problems- attack and articulation – simply do not exist under Michael Lloyd’s assiduous, dedicated conducting.
It took the huge body of players quite a while to agree upon intonation at the opening of Britten’s name-belying Simple Symphony, but once that was settled there was much to admire in the players’ open-air crispness and generosity of bowing in the soulful “Sentimental Saraband”.
Intonation was again an issue during Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, and balance too, especially given soloist Jack McNeill’s amazing gift for the most arresting pianissimo playing.
And Michael Lloyd earned our gratitude for the freshness he brought to the most frequently-played symphony by Sibelius, the Second. He sculpted the almost geographical contours of this broodingly mythic work with visionary vigour.