Review: Ipswich Orchestral Society, Corn Exchange, November 26

The question of how to fill a concert hall, especially in troubled financial times, is one that focuses the thoughts of musical administrators everywhere. For some years, Ipswich Orchestral Society has found the answer by combining a top drawer soloist in a popular concerto with an enterprising exploration of the symphonic repertoire. This formula again worked with cellist Natalie Clein playing the Dvorak Concerto and a Tchaikovsky symphony to follow.

The orchestra immediately captured the stormy, solemn mood of the opening of Brahms’ Tragic Overture, going on to effectively contrast the lyrical sections with the dramatic, rhythmic moments.

Since winning the BBC Young Musician award in 1997 Natalie Clein has established herself as one of the best cellists of her generation and her performance of the concerto was full of passion, conviction and arresting insights. Her strong, imperious entry after the long orchestral introduction and dexterity in the fast passages were among the many things to admire. There were notable, well played horn and clarinet solos. Both soloist and orchestra executed with precision the contrasting calm, lyrical phrases of the slow movement with the urgent, intense outbursts before Clein steered the movement to a peaceful close. The finale, full of delicious musical asides and inventions, was alternately earthy, dreamy and happy, the varying moods and tempos skilfully coordinated by the capable and experienced conductor Adam Gatehouse.

It was good programming to give an airing to Tchaikovsky’s little heard first symphony, known as Winter Daydreams, rather than the later symphonies. It is certainly not short of melodic inspiration even if this is at the expense of symphonic unity. The orchestra’s playing and commitment was excellent, the first movement surged along, and the elegant third had an engaging, gentle lilt. The exuberant finale had great energy and brio, the final bars drawing a rousing ovation from the large, appreciative audience.

Jenny Jones

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