CBSO at Symphony Hall by Christopher Morley
Three works written within less than 20 years of each other, all by composers of Russian origin with sojourns (of varying lengths) in the United States, and each one revealing different sources of provenance, made up this fascinating programme.
Showing yet again its heady versatility in recent days (from accompanying the BBC Young Musician Final, through a specialist Mozart-based concert, a glitzy West End cornucopia, a charming children's concert, and on to a a showcase for one of the world's great operatic tenors the evening after this concert), the CBSO provided for the popular and elegant conductor Ludovic Morlot a wonderful vehicle for his probing interpretations.
Stravinsky's Bach-derived Dumbarton Oaks chamber concerto was taut and springy in delivery, and Marie-Christine Zupancic's flute gambolled friskily in the coquettish middle movement. But there was too much resonance clouding this account. Had the acoustic canopy been lowered a little we would have felt less that we were in the indistinct ambience of one of our region's great cathedrals.
Tasmin Little brought her boppy and lyrical violin to Leonard Bernstein's eclectic Plato-based Serenade, its discourses evoking some of the composer's other works (I heard the contemporaneous Candide and the yet-to-come Chichester Psalms), as well as so much of America's greatest violin concerto, that by Samuel Barber.
Morlot's CBSO were busy and purposeful, and Little assimilated the rhetoric of her solo-writing into a hearteningly collaborative ensemble with the orchestra.
Prokofiev's irresistible Fifth Symphony made a spectacular conclusion. Morlot built its long reflective passages patiently, and released the music's balletic subtext colourfully. There were great sweeping lyrical phrasings, but also the sardonic raspings (expertly-attuned brass) which season Prokofiev's inherent grace.
The symphony's finale, like a magnifying glass homing in on teeming insects, virtually burst with kinetic energy, and applause from both audience and players was a much-needed release.