CBSO review 30.1.19

CBSO at Symphony Hall *****

Not many people would regard Beethoven's Violin Concerto as an oasis of calm, but on this occasion it certainly became one. The concert had begun with Prokofiev's Love of Three Oranges suite, much of which Cristian Măcelaru made sound like a circus act of raucous fortissimos, shrieking woodwind and frantic dashing about. Great fun, if occasionally overblown, but thrown off with tremendous élan.
Then came the concerto – and the contrast was immediate. Măcelaru switched from maestro overlord (although, to be fair, he's not a conductor who preens and gesticulates) to supportive, listening partner of soloist Augustin Hadelich, while the CBSO – as they so often do – morphed into a stylishly weighted Classical ensemble.
Indeed, Hadelich's interpretation of this much-loved work was almost Mozartian in its weight, tone and phrasing, rather than an expression of burgeoning, sweaty romanticism. Apart from his disarmingly effortless technique, where runs and scales progressed with jewelled clarity (the ebullient Rondo was despatched with an almost insouciant ease, as were the flashy Kreisler cadenzas) it was the poetry, rather than virtuosity, of Hadelich's reading that was so memorable. And, at its heart, he made the sublime Larghetto sound almost like a bird serenading the night.
Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 4 provided a wake-up call with its uncharacteristic catalogue of violent dissonances, bad-tempered nastiness, restless energy and cries of anguish.
Măcelaru didn't pull any punches, from when he mounted the podium and started to conduct almost without a pause to when all the elements of the finale collide and coalesce into an almost terrifying roar of anger. Neither did he let up on the detail and brilliance of VW's orchestration, which the CBSO executed with total, if not entirely unblemished, commitment – and threw off in record time. Let's hope we don't have to wait another nine years to hear it.
David Hart

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