Plymouth Symphony Orchestra with Mark Cracknell at the Guildhall (review)

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Plymouth Symphony Orchestra certainly saved the best for last when they threw everything into an overall splendid performance of Rachmaninov’s lengthy and decidedly-taxing Second Symphony.

True there were rough edges, but the players could not have given more for conductor Anne Kimber, or Paul Mathews, who led the impressive-sounding strings.

Opening with Sibelius’s eminently-patriotic Finlandia, there were some really well-shaped climaxes, and good strong sounds at the higher level.

But at times there needed to be greater dynamic contrast, especially when woodwind were playing, and where, again, intonation wasn’t always as secure as with the other orchestral sections.

Piano concertos are usually good crowd-pullers, and so it was nice to see this reflected in audience numbers, as well as the encouraging percentage of young people present.

Rehearsal time is, of course, a difficulty, but despite Anne Kimber’s stalwart efforts to maintain a reasonable ensemble between piano and orchestra in Schumann’s poetic concerto, soloist Mark Cracknell’s apparent tendency to rush meant that this was never going to be achieved, nor helped by the odd slip in the part.

But it will surely be for the glorious melodies and lush orchestral textures of the Russian symphony that this otherwise very enjoyable programme will be remembered.


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