Review: Ipswich Orchestral Society, Ipswich Corn Exchange, November 30
- Credit: Susie Ahlburg
Under their current and two previous conductors the Ipswich Orchestral Society has built a deserved reputation for high standards of performance and the ability to attract soloists of stature and repute. The appearance of the well-established but still young Benjamin Grosvenor was doubtless a factor in drawing a large crowd to the Corn Exchange.
There are few better concert openers than Beethoven’s fine Egmont overture and there was some crisp playing in the central section and a suitably triumphant coda.
Saint-Saens’ second piano concerto is best known for its engaging second movement and it was good to have an opportunity to hear the piece in its entirety. The slow movement comes first and although it is alternately dramatic, lyrical and tempestuous, with some effective orchestral colour and striking piano passages, the overall effect is somewhat diffuse. Grosvenor played with the clarity and precision that we have come to associate with him and in the second movement he pointedly captured the gaiety and wit of the music and the orchestra provided a nimble accompaniment. The finale had energy and excitement with some exceptional dexterity from the pianist and the players sharply responsive to Adam Gatehouse’s clear direction.
Although Brahms wrote his second symphony in a genial and relaxed frame of mind, it is a big work in every sense and makes considerable demands on the ability and stamina of the players. Gatehouse conducted with his usual insight and authority and the players responded well. Despite occasional slips and infelicities, there was much creditable playing throughout the orchestra, particularly from the first horn. However, the difficulties of Brahms’ writing occasionally took a degree of vitality out of the performance and the symphony felt less seamless than usual. Nevertheless, the brass put their stamp on the rousing final bars to draw a warm and well merited reception.