CBSO Tippett, Beethoven, Schubert review


Symphony Hall *****

Why does anybody attempt to navigate Five Ways and Broad Street any more, a city gateway made virtually impassable by the ongoing construction of the Metro, a vanity project no-one I know actually wants?

But fight your way to the other end and you're rewarded with riches, with a CBSO playing at the top of its form in one of the world's greatest concert-halls. And how good it was on Thursday to hear the orchestra making its contribution to the long-overdue rehabilitation of the music of Sir Michael Tippett.

His Concerto for Double String Orchestra, bustling with vitality and bursting with heart, was joyously delivered by the CBSO under Edward Gardner (who has Tippett's music in his fingertips), the lines beautifully shaped and balanced in a reading combining energy and delicacy.

In a neat twist of programming, Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto (a work which had lain behind the inspiration of Tippett's own Piano Concerto, premiered by the CBSO in 1955) followed, soloist Stephen Hough totally as one with his orchestral colleagues.

Hough's was an interpretation which, from the slightly spread opening chord onwards, was thoughtful, philosophical, ruminative in personality, but always part of the bigger picture. He invested immense importance in the cadenzas, no mere display of the soloist's technique (upon which it would be an impertinence to comment), but an extension of Beethoven's formidable powers in developing the seeds from which his music had grown.

Gardner and the CBSO are currently recording a complete cycle of Schubert symphonies, and the evening here concluded with the Sixth, nodding to both the late Haydn symphonies and to Beethoven's First, in the same C major key. Perkily conveyed, with a deft lightness of touch, this performance sent us out back into the building-site hell with spirits well lifted, with Tippett and Hough's Beethoven still prominent in our minds.

Christopher Morley

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