CBSO review November 4

MIRGA BRINGS A SMILE TO THE CBSO'S SECOND LOCKDOWN CONCERT

CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★★

In her audience address Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla reminded us that Brahms Symphony No.3 was the CBSO's last piece before lockdown and eight months later it was again. Good to see that during the hiatus the orchestra's music director has retained her sense of humour. She hoped we'd all be able to see their opera performance next March which is – nudge, nudge – Verdi's A Masked Ball. Nice one Mirga. She concentrated on the symphony's many ambiguities, both musical and of mood. Covid separation gave the wind and brass greater prominence and slimmed down the string sound – more like the balance Brahms would have known – perhaps exaggerated by my perch on the fifth floor. The symphony's tonally shifting opening was genuinely disturbing, while the benedictory ending was achieved after the CBSO's energized finale, thrusting and jabbing to-and-fro. The intermezzo was gorgeous, those prominent winds a great delight, and Mirga was always attentive to Brahms' desire for playing that was both mezzo voce and espressivo.

Ligeti's Concert Romanesc is a Mirga favourite, usually an encore, here a wacky and whimsical opening item. An apt one for the long delayed debut of the orchestra's new leader Eugene Tzikindelean, the Romanian revelling in his countryman's artful gypsy fiddle pastiche. Mozart's sunny, charming but demanding Bassoon Concerto showcased the CBSO's Nikolaj Henriques. Mozart uses the soloist as joker and acrobat, leaping from top to bottom registers, and Henriques was agility itself. In the aria-like andante Mozart allows him to be romantic hero and Henriques was utterly charming.

Norman Stinchcombe

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