CBSO review 25.8.19


Symphony Hall *****
Fresh from conquering the BBC Proms, and simultaneous with BBC4's relay of that triumph, the CBSO came home to Symphony Hall and a packed auditorium, bringing a delicious programme of works composed within less than 20 years of each other.
Fairy-tale and childhood was the underlying theme, beginning with Ravel's enchanting Mother Goose Suite. Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla opened the Pavane languorously, putting a strain on woodwind intonation which would have defeated many a lesser orchestra. They got their revenge with cheeky chirrups in Tom Thumb, and the contrabassoon made an enormously dignified contribution to the Satie-styled Conversations of Beauty and the Beast. Finally Mirga brought a well-built conclusion to the Enchanted Garden.
As she did to Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, long a CBSO showpiece, but here fresh and crystalline, pointillistic in detail and incident, both deft and loving and with an Infernal Dance which was coruscatingly malevolent.
Elspeth Dutch's principal horn led us magically into the finale, and then, in Mahler's Fourth Symphony, was simply outstanding whether as a nature-symbol, or an emblem of nobility, or simply as an expression of grandeur.
Mirga's phrasing throughout what I consider Mahler's greatest symphony (that should set some hares running) was shapely and nuanced, her subtle command of inner detail led to textures full in richness, always judiciously balanced, and her frequent understating of expressive paragraphs, such as the opening of the heavenly slow movement, made the climaxes all the more effective.
In a previous performance Mirga had three boy sopranos (the "drei Engel" from the Third Symphony) singing the childlike solos in the finale. Some liked it (I found it interesting), some didn't. Here she reverted to the conventional soprano, but what a soprano this was! Lina Dambrauskaite cultivated a properly chorister-like tone (this is what Mahler asked for), coaxing the ear. The effect was perfect.
The many violin solos, not least the scordatura fiddle of the scherzo, were eloquently delivered by Eugene Tzikindelean, another guest concertmaster. We haven't had a permanent one since before Mirga's appointment. When, oh when?
Christopher Morley

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