CBSO Live review


CBSO Live at the CBSO Centre

This was the title of a treat bringing us Octets of the 1920s, celebrating both the decade of the then City of Birmingham Orchestra's birth, as well as rarely heard music played for a masked and well spaced audience, eager to hear our musicians at last after months of Covid Lockdown.

Initial studies of engineering and mathematics ushered in Edgard Varese's musical genius. We certainly appreciated the explanatory programme notes for his Octandre a mind-blowing work for winds and bass,! but with smiles from a bemused audience.

A world premiere from Grace-Evangeline Mason (b. Oct 1994) "My thoughts fly in at your window", commissioned for the orchestra's centenary year, was greeted with curiosity and delight.. Sturdy fortissimos offset a sonorous solo cello as we listened to second-movement chirping 'As a flock of wild birds'.

Lovely muted effects and a sweet solo violin were special treats in the Concertino for String Octet Op 47 by Eugene Goossens, a conductor/composer with virtuoso siblings, who valued CBSO connections from 1920. As guest conductor on numerous occasions, he eventually moved to the Cincinnati Symphony, but remained on warm terms with the CBSO and Midland audiences.

The Shostakovitch hauntingly relentless Two pieces for String Octet' certainly 'wowed' with energy and spirit. A sparkling challenge.

Finally we were blown away by Stravinsky's Octet. Poignancy with heart-stopping solo strands - a crazy waltz thrown in as well. Stravinsky at his most challenging, all superbly delivered under clear direction from conductor Michael Seal.

We all look forward to our usual regular treats now as the stage has been set for this huge challenge . . . and we sincerely hope that Symphony Hall will soon be fully on the CBSO music map once more.

A repeat of this chamber triumph was at 5.30pm the same afternoon, all for the love of sharing our music. Thank you everyone.

Maggie Cotton

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