Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra - Elgar Hall, Birmingham University by Christopher Morley

For a programme originally abandoned because of arctic conditions last December to be rescheduled for an afternoon at the height of a July heatwave was ironic indeed, and may have led to an undeservedly small audience. And for the programme to have a Russian thread at a time when the eyes of the world are focussed upon a footballing event going on in that country was a bit of serendipitous topicality.
Michael Lloyd took the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra podium in full fig: tails, white tie, cummerbund and waistcoat (he got there before Gareth Southgate), yet he drew from his more relaxedly-garbed forces performances of energy and delicacy.
Stravinsky's Petrushka opened proceedings, well-detailed right from its throbbing, pulsating beginning, immediately vivid in its characterisation. BPO has just bidden a fond farewell to John Franklin, principal flute for many decades, but Helen Foster, his replacement, was magnificent in the beady-eyed exposure Stravinsky puts on the instrument.
As were the trumpets, with secure and florid cornet-doubling, and a shrilling conclusion which has caught out many professionals. There was continuous momentum throughout these busy textures, all delivered with zest and elan, despite some moments of inaudibility in balance.
A generous, hour-long sequence of excerpts from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet brought many joys, Lloyd, such an expert in ballet-conducting, empowering his players to deliver solo glories while all the time maintaining an underlying rhythmic impetus.
Just one point in conclusion about platform etiquette: when the conductor invites the whole orchestra to take applause, no-one should stand until the concertmaster (here the supremely assured Charlotte Moseley) rises.
Christopher Morley

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