CBSO at Symphony Hall *****
A breathtaking concert for so many reasons. Starting with Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus Overture taken at a near-uncomfortable speed by conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, rescued by lovely solo oboe (Emmet Byrne) and eventually accelerating to a hectic conclusion. Mopped brows throughout!
Gut strings on a Stradivarius cello - a special treat from soloist Steven Isserlis for his performance of Schumann's Cello Concerto. The orchestra was reduced a little with Symphony Hall's acoustics adding to the overall magical effect. This soloist certainly can give a unique and personal performance with much tossing of curls, sighs and attempted visual contact with the conductor. Added charm came with the unaccompanied encore "Song of the birds", and smiles all round.
A massive orchestra (140) assembled for Richard Strauss's gargantuan Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life).From the terrifying first bass note this work caused a sensation – gleefully parodying critics adding exuberant self-celebration with 9 horns, heroic brass, chattering woodwinds, masses of timpani and percussion, two harps and endless sweeping strings. Top score for guest leader Benjamin Gilmore who impeccably delivered the seemingly endless hair-raising solo interjections (representing Strauss's wife) using a whole range of violinistic acrobatics. A star!
Off stage trumpets heralded a massive battle: military heroism, tattoos, gunfire, eventually leading to a magnificent heart-stopping horn solo (Elspeth Dutch).
The packed audience rightly exploded after the final note died away, and some of us were in tears.
Maggie Cotton

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