I doubt I’ve ever heard a better concert from certainly one of the finest non-professional orchestras in the land, and I know I’ve heard few better performances of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony than the one the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra delivered on Sunday afternoon.
The BPO boasts a horn section (nine here) which many a professional outfit would kill for and, led by the amazing Tim Stidwill, they encompassed all Mahler’s exposing demands with skill and panache.
But there was so much else under Michael Lloyd’s energising and empowering baton: deep-toned strings, fearless woodwind, feisty heavy brass, well-marshalled percussion (including the extra sledge-hammer blow of destiny which Mahler superstitiously deleted from his score) – though I took exception to the player who swigged out of a water-bottle in full view of the audience.
Unlike Simon Rattle, Lloyd selected the correct order of inner movements, scherzo second, andante third, reinstated, after earlier aberrations, by the composer at the end of his life.
Intonation suffered during this long work, so it proved sensible to retune before the epic finale.
Though the orchestra was too large, a sleek, deftly-delivered account of Haydn’s Horn Signal Symphony (if you’ve got ’em, flaunt ’em) began proceedings on this memorable afternoon.
Rating * * * *