CBSO pre-Prom review

CBSO AND A HANDSWORTH-BORN COMPOSER

CBSO
Symphony Hall ****

It was the young star cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason who attracted the near-capacity audience – but it was a similarly precocious Birmingham woman who stole the show. Handsworth-born Dorothy Howell was just twenty-one when her symphonic poem Lamia was performed at the 1919 Promenade Concerts. It is amazing to think that this was her first orchestral work – there is such assured handling of large forces in a piece inspired by Keats' romantic poem. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla brought out all its shimmering beauty; the sighing woodwind-led opening, central dance episode and final melancholy love-lorn theme for solo violin. How heartening that the CBSO will take Lamia to this year's Proms, a century after its debut. Smart programming to complement it with Oliver Knussen's The Way to Castle Yonder which similarly evokes mystery and magic albeit in a different musical idiom.

The public relations puffery on the internet says that Kanneh-Mason was inspired by Jacqueline Du Pre's classic recording of Elgar's Cello Concerto. It didn't sound like that. He was more introspective; emotion recollected in tranquility rather than heart-on-sleeve, resignation rather than raging against the dying of the light. It's a perfectly valid approach – working best in the scherzo – but sometimes sounded under-projected. It'll sound more impressive in the closely-miked Proms broadcast. Mieczsław Weinberg's Symphony No. 3 (revised 1960) has a charming folk song-influenced second movement – bringing appreciative smiles from the audience – and a rousing finale for the Soviet musical commissars. Gražinytė-Tyla made the most of the lightweight work aided by excellent CBSO playing.

Norman Stinchcombe

Popular posts from this blog

Marriage of Figaro review

Shostakovich and Mayflower reviews

Orchestra of the Swan's new season