Symphony Hall
Ibsen's Peer Gynt is often regarded as a long play more read about than seen, so most people know only Grieg's incidental music, or at least the two suites he culled from his ninety-minute score. In these concerts Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla gave us the original versions of the suite movements, plus three less familiar pieces.
As a well-packed narrative sequence it worked well and was brilliantly played by a CBSO totally responsive to Mirga's nuanced direction, where by simply stroking the music along she forced you to really listen to the subtleties of its execution.
And there was the fabulous Swedish soprano Klara Ek, who gave the Arabian Dance a charm totally free of operatic excess, and imbued Solveig's Song with a simple grace and gentle sadness, while the CBSO Chorus added rarely-heard embellishments to In the Hall of the Mountain King and, with Ek, delivered the postscript to Solveig's Cradle Song with touching poignancy.
Even more intriguing on Thursday was the first half's engagement with the CBSO's Baltic Way theme. It began with Esa-Pekka Salonen's Dona nobis pacem for unaccompanied upper voices – here the super CBSO Youth Chorus, whose purity of tone was totally haunting and incredibly moving – and ended with Sibelius's En saga, beautifully and undemonstratively played (Oliver Janes' quiet clarinet a questing lone voice at the end), the drama and detail spaciously revealed by Mirga without recourse to exaggerated emotion.
But the most fascinating – and stunningly realised – work of the evening was Rautavaara's Cantus Arcticus (Concerto for Birds and Orchestra), a glorious combination of recorded birdsong and orchestral impressionism; and it sounded quite wonderful. So why don't we hear more of his music?
David Hart

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