CBSO review 14.10.21


Symphony Hall *****
This matinee, greatly enjoyed by a huge audience, including a patient guide-dog (but perhaps not by the inarticulate climate change demonstrator escorted off the stage by two efficient stewards), was a concert of brilliant soloists.
So much in the programme put the spotlight on so many members of a CBSO more than on top of its habitually breathtaking form, but there was also the slight matter of the concerto soloist, Baiba Skride in Mozart's Violin Concerto no.5.
Despite being cast in one of the composer's favourite keys, A major, the work does convey a rather subdued atmosphere, to which Skride responded with a somewhat small tone from her wonderful Stradivarius instrument, though there was plenty of light and shade in her sweetly singing phrasing. And she really fizzed in the threatening "Turkish" interlude with which Mozart brought himself to life in the finale.
Stand-in conductor Andrew Gourlay drew from the CBSO wonderfully alert playing (the opening movement is marked "allegro aperto" – a rare Mozart indication, though Handel also did occasionally use it, meaning "open air quick"), and serenade-like warmth in the slow movement. Full marks to Skride for eschewing an encore.
We had begun with the William Tell overture. I had forgotten how much Rossini pinched from Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony for his construction of the storm and the subsequent Ranz des Vaches (Rachael Pankhurst's cor anglais, Marie-Christine Zupancic's flutteringly accompanying flute wonderful here). The cellos, led by the perennially amazing Eduardo Vassallo, launched the piece with a genuine sense of portent, and the conclusion had a sense of nobility as well as triumphalism.
After the interval the orchestra was swelled., the bombast of Berlioz' Roman Carnival overture sweetened by delicate percussion punctuations under full-throated strings after yet another eloquent Pankhurst solo.
Then came the wonder of the afternoon, the Suite no.1 from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet ballet. We already have a tremendous ballet orchestra in the city, the BRB Sinfonia, but here we had another one, the CBSO playing with precision, vigour and shape under the lift of Gourlay's baton.
There were so many solos from all departments tumbling exhilaratingly from the orchestra, but I really must mention Graham Sibley's sturdy tuba and Adam Romer's heartbreaking viola.
And more than praise for Andrew Gourlay, taking over such a varied programme and presiding as the players, magisterially led by concertmaster Eugene Tzikindelean, painted such a kaleidoscope of colours.

Christopher Morley

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