CBSO review 20.1.22

THREE ORCHESTRAS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

CBSO
Symphony Hall *****
We got three orchestras for the price of one in this amazing offering from an on-fire CBSO – almost literally so, with horns blazing in Strauss and Mahler. What we all recognise as a great ensemble (which we sometimes risk taking for granted) has the capacity to turn on even more greatness under the right conductor, and the players certainly did so here under the eloquent, clear baton of the orchestra's Chief Conductor-elect, Kazuki Yamada.
The musicians obviously love him, and he them, and this matinee audience joined in with warm, prolonged applause. It was a joy to see such genuine delight on the players' faces, knowing now that they have a music director settling into his task with such enthusiasm, as well as a concertmaster, Eugene Tzikindelean, bringing such distinction to his role.
This was a mouthwatering programme with Mozart as its pivot, preceded by the Don Juan of Richard Strauss (who adored the composer of Don Giovanni), and succeeded by the Fourth Symphony of Gustav Mahler, whose last dying word could be translated as "little Mozart".
Don Juan burst in with a rich sound, full of vitality, yet Yamada was also able to create a sweetness of texture in the more intimate episodes which looked forward to Der Rosenkavalier. And the strings leapt and exulted in their own right, whilst gently accompanying persuasive solos from, for example, oboe and clarinet.
After this all, this adolescent Romantic testosterone, two arias by Mozart found a reduced orchestra perfectly attuned to the crisp, direct quality of sound such searching music requires. The wonderful Egyptian soprano Fatma Said was soloist, bursting straight into character in "Vado, ma dove?", her phrasing easy and fluent with a voice never over-projecting. She was similarly dramatic in "Non piu di Fiori" from La Clemenza di Tito (such a turgid stage-work, but such glorious music as we were able to relish here), with no need for us to glue ourselves to the printed text. Here we relished the guttural bite of her lowest ranges, as well as the gorgeous basset-horn obbligato of Oliver Janes, reminding us that this very late opera was composed virtually contemporaneously with Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.
Yamada introduced us charmingly to Mahler's Fourth Symphony, hinting at images of Santa Claus and spooky violins, before proceeding to direct an account which showed brave confidence in his players in the breadth of his unfolding, his chamber-like rubato, and the silent eloquence of his pauses. Here we had an orchestral response which was both analytical, anticipating the Second Viennese School, and heartfelt.
He revealed so much detail here, some of it never noticed by me before after nearly 60 years of loving this masterpiece, and drew so much expressive virtuosity from the musicians. Tzikindelean certainly, not least in the solo violin's second movement dance of death, horns repeating their Don Juan triumphs, bassoons bringing a range of colour and articulation, but also, among many others, the crucial contributions of the double- basses, usually the orchestral unsung heroes.
Fatma Said returned for the concluding Child's View of Heaven, her body-language demurely appealing, her tone pure and focussed. I was so pleased that, like me, she seemed really concerned about the poor little lamb being led to slaughter.
Christopher Morley

Popular posts from this blog

Birmingham Opera Company's RhineGold

CBSO Covid Requiem review

The CBSO gives an American cantata a long-delayed UK premiere