Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra * * * *
Adrian Boult Hall
Review by Norman Stinchcombe
Preparing for this concert, featuring Elgar’s overture In The South and his Symphony No 2, I listened to Sir Adrian Boult’s recordings.
I think the great conductor would have been delighted with the performances given in the hall dedicated to him. Michael Lloyd’s approach was not unlike Boult’s – imparting a strong sense of rhythm, forward momentum and with an abundance of sentiment but not sentimentality. It says a great deal about the depth of Birmingham’s musical culture and talent that a non-professional orchestra could play this music with exactly the "nobilmente" quality that Elgar demanded.
The surging opening of In the South, Elgar’s musical recollection of an Italian holiday, brings to mind Richard Strauss in its energetic panache. But at its centre is a heart-easing lyrical theme for viola, as if amidst the grandeur of the Italian scenery we had wandered into an Arcadian glade.
The orchestra’s playing did justice to both facets of the work, with the horns and brass giving rock-solid support throughout.
They were equally impressive in the symphony, especially in the third movement where the seemingly carefree opening descends into pounding rhythms.
The symphony’s slow movement crowned the evening, as Lloyd urged his players to find that extra iota of passion that turns a good performance into a fine one.
In between these two works we had a little gem: Gerald Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto. Peter Cigleris was the impressive young soloist, with a nicely rounded tone and nimble passage-work, both put to good use in the ebullient tuneful finale. Only some suspect string intonation in the opening movement marred an otherwise excellent performance.