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Review: Ipswich Symphony Orchestra with Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Music from Russia, Corn Exchange, Nov 25

PUBLISHED: 16:49 30 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:49 30 November 2017

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, winner of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016, who is performing with the Ipswich Symphony Orchestra. Photo:PHOTONOTTINGHAM

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, winner of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016, who is performing with the Ipswich Symphony Orchestra. Photo:PHOTONOTTINGHAM

Archant

The centenary of the Russian Revolution has been marked by a number of cultural events and this sold-out concert featured three of the country’s major composers, spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Mussorgsky, though chaotic and dissolute, was nevertheless a composer of remarkable vision and originality, particularly in his operas Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina. The prelude to the latter begins in an atmosphere of mystery but the orchestration is exposed and the early bars were uneasy before the orchestra found its feet and the performance gathered conviction with a nice horn contribution.

The BBC Young Musician competition has always found a wide audience and Sheku Kanneh-Mason was a popular winner in 2016 when he played the first cello concerto of Dmitri Shostakovich, a work that he repeated in this concert.

Still only eighteen, Sheku demonstrates outstanding technical skill and musicality as well as a strong stage presence. He gave the work an authoritative launch and the orchestra followed with nimble and lively playing, expertly overseen by the experienced conductor, Adam Gatehouse.

Shostakovich’s trademark breezy, jaunty style was smartly captured, soloist and orchestra always at one. The opening of the second movement was particularly arresting and although the third movement cadenza is undeniably long, Sheku’s passionate commitment held the audience’s attention throughout.

In no sense is Rachmaninov’s second symphony a model of taut and tightly disciplined composition. Rather, it is an expansive and enjoyable work for both performers and listeners, with an abundance of good tunes to play and engage the ear. Conductor and players threw themselves into the music with energy and enthusiasm and there was much to savour in the course of nearly an hour.

The opening of the first movement had a fine contribution from the cor anglais and the strings made a good sound in their sometimes pressured passages. The brass rang out crisply in the salty opening of the second movement and there was poised and graceful clarinet playing in the slow movement. The finale had the required rhythmic drive and Gatehouse steered it precisely to its peremptory conclusion and a deservedly enthusiastic ovation.

Gareth Jones

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