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Cambridge Philharmonic Society
Mahler’s Third Symphony
West Road Concert Hall
Saturday 15th March 2014

In fifty years of attending concerts of all kinds in Cambridge, I don’t ever remember encountering a performance of Mahler’s titanic Third Symphony either by local forces or by visiting musicians. Dare I suggest that the performance mounted by the Cambridge Philharmonic Society West Road Concert Hall on Saturday 15 March was a ‘first’ in more senses than one? I do know that the Phil had never tackled it before; and on surveying the packed platform (I was told that there were 102 musicians in the orchestra, not to mention the sizable complement of ladies from the Philharmonic’s chorus, mezzo solo Sarah Castle or the contingents of young people from the King’s Junior Voices and St Catharine’s Girls’ Choir). And when the nine-strong horn section launched the performance in an impeccable bright, sonorous and highly disciplined unison, they sent an immediate message to the capacity audience that conductor Tim Redmond and his musicians (not to mention Mahler himself) clearly meant business.

The six movements of Mahler Three last an hour and a half and range from the massive half-hour onset of spring out of winter’s gloom portrayed in the first movement to the passionate outpouring of human and divine love in the finale, via the rather less ambitious middle movements, cheeky and pastoral by turns and involving some really crisp, tart wood-wind playing. The ladies’-plus-children’s choir in the artlessly angelic fifth movement, with their clear, clean tone, excellent ensemble, diction and intonation and robust projection of the joyous atmosphere that Mahler demands, provided the icing on a pretty substantial musical cake of rare richness. Great stuff! No wonder the performance was greeted with shouts of jubilant acclamation and more than just a short burst of applause.

Next stop, Haydn’s Creation; West Road, Saturday 3 May. Don’t miss it!

James Day
First published in Cambridgeshire Pride, March 2014

Notes for editors

Cambridge Philharmonic, founded in 1887, is one of Britain’s oldest and most distinguished music societies. With a full symphony orchestra and a large chorus, the Cambridge Philharmonic presents an annual concert series in King’s College Chapel, Ely Cathedral and the West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge.

Cambridge Philharmonic works with an enviable roster of soloists, including in recent seasons, instrumentalists such as Natalie Clein, Alison Balsom, Mark Simpson and Martin Roscoe and singers Joan Rodgers, Emma Bell, Roderick Williams and Jacques Imbrailo. This has been a long tradition of the Philharmonic and in previous decades, artists including Philip Langridge, Peter Pears, Philip Jones and Kathleen Ferrier all performed with the society. Principal and guest conductors have included Sir David Willcocks, Stephen Cleobury, Raymond Leppard and Thomas Adès.

Under their current principal conductor and music director, Timothy Redmond, the Cambridge Philharmonic has developed and expanded its repertoire to include annual opera performances, family concerts and a focus on contemporary music. Critically-acclaimed performances of repertoire as diverse as Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Bernstein’s Candide, Verdi’s La Traviata and Mahler’s Second Symphony have given the Cambridge Philharmonic a profile that extends far beyond its home town.

In addition to its regular performances in the UK, the Cambridge Philharmonic has appeared at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and Prague’s Rudolfinum Concert Hall. The Cambridge Philharmonic Orchestra reached an even wider audience when they recorded Ryan Teague’s album Coins and Crosses, which has been featured on BBC radio and TV and heard on radio stations worldwide.

For more information please contact Anne Sales at info@cam-phil.org.uk.