CBSO at Symphony Hall ****
A DISAPPOINTING DVORAK CELLO CONCERTO
Beethoven's Creatures of Prometheus Overture might have seemed a puny choice to follow the spectacular act which was the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra's stunning Rite of Spring curtain-raiser, but in fact it was arguably the most successful offering in this overture-concerto-symphony programme from the CBSO.
Conductor Alexander Vedernikov had us thinking, quite rightly, that we were in for an undiscovered Beethoven symphony with a portentous introduction, timpani commanding our attention from their unusual positioning to our left, and then we were left marvelling at the Figaro-like fizzing of the main part of this attractive little piece.
Paul Watkins was soloist in a disappointingly uninvolving account of the wonderful Dvorak Cello Concerto. Certainly his venerable instrument sang with a burnished, mellow tone, but his smooth facility of technique, making light of the work's demands, led to his sleeve perhaps hiding too much of his heart.
Vedernikov's orchestra provided a flowing context, gorgeously pastoral when the woodwinds sang, but the full forces occasionally over-balanced the soloist's figuration, clouding the sense of homesick musings.
Shostakovich's Sixth Symphony is yet another compendium of the composer's hallmarks: ponderously unfolding sombre melodic lines in the strings, weighty brass commentaries, glacial violins, a plaintive piccolo, a grieving flute, a contrived sense of gleeful fun with his characteristic perky quaver-semiquaver rhythmic tics, and a deft sleight of hand.
The CBSO achieved all of this, particularly heroic in the helterskelter finale, but there were times when Vedernikov seemed to be conducting for the audience instead of for these remarkable players.