Review: Ipswich Symphony Orchestra relish the challenges of a Russian concert

Ipswich Symphony Orchestra in rehearsals. Photo: Gregg Brown

Ipswich Symphony Orchestra in rehearsals. Photo: Gregg Brown - Credit: Gregg Brown

Review: Ipswich Symphony Orchestra, Russian Music, Ipswich Corn Exchange, June 29

Ipswich Symphony Orchestra in rehearsal Photo: Gregg Brown

Ipswich Symphony Orchestra in rehearsal Photo: Gregg Brown - Credit: Gregg Brown

A programme of popular Russian music played by the Ipswich Symphony Orchestra drew a near capacity crowd to the Corn Exchange on a hot summer evening.

Shostakovich's extrovert Festive Overture began in a blaze of brass and a spirited clarinet solo set the tone for the remainder of the work - energetic and exuberant .

Rachmaninov's C minor Piano Concerto arguably tops the popularity poll for Russian piano concertos and its surging melodies and virtuosic piano writing have endeared it to generations for more than a century. The soloist was Noriko Ogawa, making her fifth appearance with the orchestra.

Noriko judged the crescendo of the opening chords perfectly and the piano arpeggios flashed around the stirring opening theme. The orchestral playing was accurate and crisp with characterful contributions from brass and wind and a full, secure string sound.

Conductor Adam Gatehouse oversaw the orchestral - piano exchanges and tempi fluctuations with his usual aplomb and ushered the first movement to its terse conclusion. The slow movement opened with well balanced, velvety strings and delicate wind playing before Ogawa unfolded the extended melodic line with warmth and later a rich intensity.

The finale really caught the driving rhythms and at the final orchestral peroration it was impossible not to be reminded of Trevor Howard, Celia Johnson and Carnforth station.

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Tchaikovsky himself had reservations about his fifth symphony, as did Brahms who attended a rehearsal and made little attempt to hide his disdain. Posterity has viewed the work more favourably, its melodic fecundity and colourful orchestration commending themselves to both performers and listeners.

A sensitive clarinet opening ushered in the main allegro, full of fine playing from all sections of the orchestra and held firmly together by the experienced Gatehouse.

The horn solo that opens the slow movement was very well played and there was neat work from the strings in the third movement.

The finale, despite one or two rough edges, was played with enthusiasm and commitment and the brass let rip in the explosive coda. Another fine concert from this long established orchestra - congratulations to all players and conductor.

Gareth Jones

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