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Review: Ipswich Symphony Orchestra, Brahms & Beethoven, Ipswich Corn Exchange, November 26

PUBLISHED: 12:16 01 December 2016 | UPDATED: 12:16 01 December 2016

Steven Osborne who performed with the Ipswich Symphony Orchestra

Steven Osborne who performed with the Ipswich Symphony Orchestra

Benjamin Ealovega 2013

Two large scale works from the beginning and middle of the 19th century were the basis of this impressive concert by the Ipswich Symphony Orchestra under their long serving conductor Adam Gatehouse.

The opening work, Mendelssohn’s Hebrides overture, was generally good, though with a few moments of tonal insecurity; it probably smoothed the path to the subsequent peaks.

The D minor piano concerto gave Brahms a good deal of difficulty before it emerged in its final form and to a cool initial reception. The extended orchestral opening, full of strife and anguish, requires full throttle and the players responded with total commitment. As the storm died away Steven Osborne ushered in the consoling melody and steered a coherent and compelling path through the thickets and cascades of Brahms’ piano writing.

The rich, characteristic second subject gave particular pleasure on both appearances and the movement ended with sparking passage work punctuated by powerful orchestral figures.

The slow movement was given a secure opening, well balanced and tuned and the soloist’s extended musings had crystalline clarity. The rugged finale with its unsettling syncopations was expertly directed by Adam Gatehouse and the flashing interjections from all corners of the orchestra made their mark. Once again Steven Osborne was scintillating; he is a pianist of the highest order and it was splendid to hear him in Ipswich.

Beethoven’s Eroica is a work that stands at a crossroad in the history of music; the scale and range of the symphony was extended as never before and the brisk tempo that Gatehouse set for the opening allegro seemed exactly right for the intensity of Beethoven’s ideas and imagination.

The slow movement had weight and authority, particularly in the big fugal passage. There was sparkle and bounce in the bustling scherzo and the horns rode the challenge of the trio with aplomb. There was elegance and charm in the intricate finale and one of the greatest symphonies of all time was given a suitably rousing conclusion.

As is sometimes said in another context, this was a real team effort. Everybody gave 100%, nobody fluffed their lines and the manager got the tactics spot on. A pleasingly full Corn Exchange responded with an enthusiastic and deserved ovation.

Gareth Jones

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