Chandos Reviews

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Michael Lloyd has steered the intrepid Chandos Symphony Orchestra through several Shostakovich symphonies over the years, and on Sunday he notched up one of the composer's rarely-heard ones, the enigmatic Sixth.

What are we to make of this work, with its impassioned first movement unfolding at length, followed by two slighter movements, one a sinister, almost Mahlerian, scherzo, the other a helter-skelter burlesque which lets everyone's hair down but demands huge concentration and control (John Gough's elegant and informative programme-notes expanded knowledgeably upon the context)?

Chandos came through the test with a great deal of credit, and all on just two weekends of rehearsal. This was a particularly good night for the woodwind, and not only in this piece. When Shostakovich thinks flute, he thinks desolation, and Sarah Ellis delivered the first movement's lengthy, meandering solo with gripping eloquence.

This opening movement is built upon unison textures, always well-sustained under Lloyd's encouraging baton, and the upper strings lamented with characteristic Russian fulsomeness.

The first half of the concert did not achieve quite the same degree of success, though there was much that was heartening in the performance of Schumann's Piano Concerto by the Chandos Young Musician 2011 winner, Jinah Shim.

Interchanges between soloist and Lloyd's well-marshalled orchestra were flowing and well-balanced, Shim's own balance between the fingers of each hand was thoughtful and clear, and a genuine atmosphere was created — not least the suspense as the end of the central Intermezzo approached.

We had begun with Copland, his Fanfare for the Common Man designed as a warm-up to his El Salón México (but the fanfaring trumpets needed to have warmed-up more beforehand), and then the exuberant Latin-American piece itself. Excellent trumpet and clarinet solos (Richard Brooks giving an unflinching downward slide), but tightness of ensemble all round in these complex rhythms was achieved at the expense of tone and intonation.

Christopher Morley