CBSO review 27.10.21

BOTH RAVEL PIANO CONCERTOS IN THE SAME CONCERT!

CBSO
Symphony Hall *****
Hearing both Ravel piano concertos in the same CBSO concert was as if this reviewer had died and gone to heaven; and the quality of the performances was the icing on the cake, the gilt on the gingerbread, just stunning.
Kirill Gerstein was the pianist, not so much a soloist but more an attentive collaborator with his orchestral colleagues, just one of the countless examples of his sensitive alertness being his empathetic accompanying of Rachael Pankhurst's cor anglais solo opening the central movement of the G major Concerto.
Gerstein's brittle, glittering pianism throughout this jazzy work was a constant delight, interleaved with an occasional strongly-accentuated bass line, and his rapport with a conductor new to me, Kevin John Edusei, was heartwarming. Edusei is elegant in his communicative gestures, enthusing the orchestra, and he had introduced himself with a speech genuine in its declaration of his pleasure in conducting an ensemble which had once been led by Simon Rattle.
The only quibble I had with this performance was the fact that the orchestra's initial fairground bustle (a la Petrushka) sounded underpowered. No such strictures for the amazing account of Ravel's Left-Hand Concerto which followed after the interval, Gerstein bringing to its compensatory thicker textures a fullness of tone and a spectacular command of the whole range of the keyboard. This was one performance where I actually did wish I could see the soloist's hand, with so much muscle-memory emerging from just five digits.
Here we had bluesy jazziness and a scary march-past, and two cadenzas evincing admiration of Gerstein's technique, certainly, but also oozing with musicality.
The evening began with Debussy's seminal Prelude a l'Apres-midi d'un Faune, Marie-Christine Zupancic's mysterious flute emerging from a sylvan nowhere in this achingly shaped reading which was at the same time both languid and tense.
Zupancic starred again in the concluding Ravel Daphnis and Chloe Suite no.2, enchanting in the Pantomime which introduces the rabid concluding Danse Generale. Fantastic trumpets here.
By this time 100 players (including 9 percussionists) were onstage, priming us for Daphnis with the UK premiere of Samy Moussa's Nocturne, well-built, bass-led sonorities leading towards a seamless link into the Ravel's rippling daybreak.
Christopher Morley

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