Review: Ipswich Symphony Orchestra, (Ipswich Orchestral Society), Shakespeare & Schumann, November 28

The recently re-named Ipswich Symphony Orchestra

The recently re-named Ipswich Symphony Orchestra - Credit: Archant

Shakespeare’s plays and characters have inspired many a composer from many a country; Verdi, through Berlioz and Gounod to Elgar and Britten spring immediately to mind. In this concert two of the most popular orchestral works in the Shakespeare canon were performed; both, as it happens, from Russia.

Imogen Cooper who performed with the Ipswich Symphony Orchestra

Imogen Cooper who performed with the Ipswich Symphony Orchestra

Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet is the composer’s first masterpiece and the story of the ill-fated lovers already bore some resemblance to his own frequently tortured private life which ended in suicide. The opening chords shine an unforgiving spotlight on the woodwind, particularly if the work opens a concert. The results were good, if not quite perfect, but by the time of the wind passage before the final string entry, intonation and balance were impeccable. In between, the players captured the angry exchanges between the warring families and built up a fervent intensity in the celebrated love tune. Conductor Adam Gatehouse judged the various tempi and their interconnections astutely and the performance was underpinned and driven by the rhythmic precision of the percussion section.

Schumann’s evergreen piano concerto was played by Imogen Cooper, who has established herself as a sensitive and searching interpreter of the classical repertoire. Her opening flourish was confident and commanding but she quickly reduced her tone to achieve a good balance with the orchestra and the first movement had a satisfying coherence and concision. The second movement flowed elegantly and the exposed transition to the finale was smoothly negotiated. In the finale Schuman’s inspiration seems less assured, but the players and soloist maintained the momentum, bringing the work to a rousing conclusion and deserved ovation.

Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet has, in recent years, won many new listeners as a result of the use of The Dance of the Knights to introduce a television programme and some football matches. The threatening discords of the opening sent a chill through the hall and there was a plenty of accurate and characterful playing from all sections of the orchestra. It was an inspired and wholly successful idea to accompany the music with a selection of Shakespeare’s words to fix the music in context. Zimmy Ryan and Alex Gatehouse, two young professional actors, were clear, credible and captured the essence of the drama.

Once again, the conductor and players of this long established orchestra performed with skill and commitment; in the context of this concert they might be said to have distinguished themselves in combat. The orchestra has recently decided to change its name to the ‘Ipswich Symphony Orchestra’ which is a little crisper and more in tune with the times. Of course, ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ (who else and in this very play?) but we look forward to more fine concerts under the new name.


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Gareth Jones

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