CBSO Benevolent Fund concert by John Gough

Symphony Hall (September 22)

Perhaps it was the irresistible lure of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ that meant that Symphony Hall had a distressingly large number of empty seats for this concert given in aid of the CBSO Benevolent Fund. Those of us who set their TV recorders and came to the performance enjoyed a cunningly devised programme of ‘Autumn classics’ that showcased the orchestra’s qualities, and gave an opportunity to hear shorter pieces that no longer fit easily into concert series.
The enthusiastic and energetic Stephen Bell compèred and conducted, proving himself a master of both orchestra and audience.
Shostakovich’s opening ‘Festive Overture’ went off like a rocket, with deft articulation, cracking string playing, balalaika-like pizzicatos, and a blaze of fanfares at the close.
The pace varied constantly. Elgar’s ‘Salut d’amour’ was sweet yet purposefully phrased. The orchestra was joined by golden toned violinist Jennifer Pike in two Kreisler pieces, by turns dazzling and melting, producing an audibly contented sigh from the audience at the end of ‘Liebesleid’. She returned later with two attractive and entertaining pieces by Wieniawski. These gave the soloist ample opportunity to display her impressive technique including double-stops and chromatic glissandos, while delivering the melodies with passion and glamorously sculpted lines. 
Other highlights included Robert Farnon’s ravishing miniature ‘A la claire fontaine’. Silky strings, flute clarinet, and vibes, murmured, rising gradually to an almost Delian ecstasy, before subsiding back to its initial sounds of birdsong. Delicious and distinguished playing.
’Autumn’ from Glazunov’s The Seasons delighted too, with its thrusting vitality and glittering and kaleidoscopic orchestration.
I have been a CBSO concertgoer now for more than fifty years and this shrewdly chosen programme recalled some of the earlier days of their repertoire, and my enjoyment of it. This was a night to celebrate our pride in the orchestra’s accomplishments and express our gratitude for the skills and artistry of its players.
John Gough
Christopher Morley adds: "Perhaps it was the disgusting inaccessibility of all the cultural venues in Birmingham city centre which helped put people off struggling to attend. How are the catering establishments managing? These dislocations are self-inflicted. Birmingham managed heroically under Nazi bombardment. The whole situation is a disgrace."

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