CBSO review 17.2.22

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE WISHES FOR MORE FIREBIRD

CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★

At first glance this was a disparate programme with no obvious theme – but it worked. Kodály's Dances of Galánta, one of the fruits of the composer's field work in collecting Hungarian folk melodies, was a riot of rhythm and colour under conductor Mihhail Gerts and got the evening off to a great start. It's not so much the depiction of a joyous village gathering as its embodiment. The music pulses, surges, takes a breather and grabs a beer before launching itself into yet another dance as if entranced by Oliver Janes' clarinet as he channelled his inner gypsy.

In Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini the soloist Sunwook Kim was all coolness, precision and gossamer touch. There was no over-indulgence or virtuoso mauling of the eighteenth variation's sublime melody – "This one is for my agent", quipped the composer – in Kim's hands it was elegant and eloquent enough. Perhaps the Dies irae theme could have been more sinister and forbidding but the rhapsody's insouciant understated finish was perfectly executed. In Debussy's Sirènes, from Nocturnes, his sixteen-strong chorus of women's voices became around fifty girls from the splendid CBSO Youth Chorus whose youthful tones winningly depicted the sirens mysterious song which surreptitiously fades away. The only problem with the performance of Stravinsky's 1919 suite from The Firebird is that it was so good it made me long for more than the edited highlights. Super playing from the whole orchestra: ravishing strings, an articulate, persuasive wind section and powerhouse brass and percussion in the infernal dance.

Norman Stinchcombe

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