Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony is sometimes said to be box-office poison, but there was no evidence of this in the enthusiastic applause given the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s performance of this work. The symphony is lengthy and heavily scored with a great variety of mood. It was a great tribute to both the orchestra and conductor that they secured such an excellent account of it. Tempi throughout were just right; the conductor balanced the orchestral choirs very well and he had the measure of the symphony’s architecture. The timing of the climaxes was carefully considered, but the overall sound was never blaring or coarse as it often is today in works of this kind; the brass were kept well under control. Solo playing was very fine, particularly by the woodwinds. The cellos  en masse  sounded very well. The only weak spot I could detect was some scrappy playing by the violins, but that is perhaps inevitable in a work of this complexity. On the whole, however, the performance demonstrated the greatness of the symphony.

The concert began with an exhilarating account of the Polovtsian Dancesfrom Borodin’s opera  Prince Igor,and before the interval, the Australian horn player, Hector McDonald, played the Horn Concerto No...