CBSO Mahler 8 review


CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★★

Mahler's famous riposte to Sibelius that, "the symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything!" was embodied in this exuberant all-embracing Symphony of a Thousand. From the thunderous opening Veni, Creator Spiritus to the ecstatic closing mystical chorus this performance gripped us in a marvellous musical hug. With the massed choral forces in front and in the right and left circles we were enveloped in sound, in sympathy with every swoop and swirl of this epic musical journey. The symphony's second part, inspired by Goethe's Faust, moves into an imaginative landscape of abysses and mountain ranges which the choirs and soloists conjured into life. With Morris Robinson's rock steady bass as its foundation, up through the heights of baritone Roland Wood and mezzos Karen Cargill and Alice Coote to the shimmering soprano pinnacle of Erin Wall, Natalya Romaniw and Katja Stuber. AJ Glueckert was an outstanding Doctor Marianus, impassioned but lyrical too.

The choral forces came from Birmingham and Baltimore – the CBSO Chorus CBSO Youth Chorus, CBSO Children's Chorus, University of Birmingham Voices and Baltimore Choral Arts Society – aged from eight-years-old to seasoned veterans. From roof-raising frisson-inducing power to utmost delicacy – Mahler's "blessed youths" sounding truly angelic – they were inspired. Amidst all the sound, fury and sublimity was Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, a petite oasis of calm amidst the storm, who marshalled the massive forces splendidly. She was never afraid to explore the extremes of tempo and volume or to hold and caress a phrase – supported magnificently by the orchestra.

Norman Stinchcombe

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