Sell-out crowd enjoys the classics

A SELL-OUT audience enjoyed a varied and interesting concert by the RPO.

Here come the Classics, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Ipswich Regent Theatre

Wednesday, March 25

A SELL-OUT audience enjoyed a varied and interesting concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO).

At first glance, this was an unremarkable, if potentially very enjoyable, programme, and it is true that it seemed sometimes that this highly-skilled orchestra could play some of the programmed pieces with their eyes shut. However, as the evening went on, some wonderful gems were displayed.

In the first half, this was Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.

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This accessible but surprisingly complex piece was arranged to demonstrate that jazz can be integrated into 'classical' orchestral music, and has been a great favourite ever since. The soloist Viv McLean played the piano with verve and tenderness, and if the orchestra occasionally overwhelmed his sound, that could be forgiven in a performance that was very fine. This was preceded by a number of short pieces, none particularly memorable except for a very lovely rendering of Elgar's Nimrod.

The second half also opened with some short, well-played and much-enjoyed pieces, before moving on to what was probably the star piece of the evening - Ralph Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending. Any trepidation that anyone might have felt that the billed violinist, Clio Gould, was too ill to perform, was quickly dispelled by stand-in soloist Jack Liebeck. I have seldom heard a more expressive Lark, there was such delicacy in his touch, and the orchestra gave him the space he needed to develop the music-picture.

For me, the surprise of the evening was the performance of Ravel's Bol�ro. This can be a tedious piece with its short, much-repeated theme, but it certainly wasn't on this occasion. Conductor Nicholas Cleobury's mastery of the orchestra was obvious as he raised the volume and richness a notch with each different instrument's performance of the theme, finally demanding perfect timing, energy and precision to deliver the finale.

There are many people who still mourn the passing of the winter Civic Concerts in Ipswich, and that there is now no professional orchestra coming regularly to the town to play full works that are less well-known, as well as popular pieces. However, no-one could fail to appreciate the rich tones of the skilled musicians of the RPO, or ignore the cheers and heartfelt applause of hundreds of people who had enjoyed a great night of music.


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