Review: Norfolk Symphony Orchestra’s “Brief Encounters”

Philip Hesketh
Philip Hesketh
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The dramatic Norfolk Symphony Orchestra Concert at Lynn Corn Exchange on Sunday was entitled ‘Brief Encounters’, a reference to the cinematic nature of both works performed.

These were Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with outstanding soloist Viv McLean, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No.11 ‘The year 1905’.

The Piano Concerto was, in fact, used in the famous classic film ‘Brief Encounter’ and the Shostakovich Symphony depicts the horrendous massacre of innocent Russian folk who had only assembled before the Tsar’s Winter Palace in St Petersburg in order to present peacefully a petition that would hopefully help alleviate the harsh conditions in which they lived at that time (January 1905). Instead they were brutally attacked by the Tsar’s Cossack troops.

When Shostakovich responded to a commission by the Soviet authorities to write a symphony commentating this tragedy he may also have had in his mind a similar massacre that took place in 1956, this time in Budapest, against demonstrators opposing the Puppet Regime installed then by the same Soviet authorities!

The symphony was first performed in Moscow in October 1957.

Viv Mclean’s heartfelt and musically well- balanced performance brought out effortlessly all the necessary romantic fervour of the piece while executing the delicate and technically difficult passages with clean and clear articulation.

The orchestra, under the experienced baton of Philip Hesketh, accompanied with the necessary richness and romantic passion.

We were lucky once again to enjoy hearing this internationally renowned soloist and I for one will be listening to some of his recordings very soon!

I note the orchestra, led by Philippa Barton, had not performed the mighty, intense symphony before, (No.11), and they acquitted themselves magnificently, in my view, taking the work’s technical difficulties and intense passions in their stride.

Dynamic contrasts and huge climaxes came over with raw directness and all the orchestra’s departments gave of their all; a special round of applause was given to Claire Clarke for her superb Cor Anglais solo.

The conductor’s comments about the Symphony before the performance were helpful.

I look forward to the orchestra’s concert in November featuring American Music and I wonder what the musical trip from East to West will bring!