CBSO. Kopatchinskaja/Grazinyte-Tyla


CBSO at Symphony Hall, live on BBC Radio3 ★★★★★

The war in Ukraine casts its shadow everywhere. In the morning President Zeklensky said that if his country fell then Putin's forces would target more countries including Lithuania and Moldova. Hours later here was a concert with conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and violin soloist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who were born in those two countries. The CBSO chief executive Stephen Maddock dedicated the concert to the people of Ukraine and a giant screen carried a picture of their country's flag. The concert ended with a special encore, the poignant and tender 'Melody in A Minor' by Ukrainian composer Myrolslav Skoryk which has a special status there akin to Elgar's 'Nimrod' here.

Perhaps the solemnity of the occasion accounted for a subdued account of Tchaikovsky's 'Romeo and Juliet' with its vivid, vibrant emotional colours diluted and the magical modulation into the love music muted. In compensation came a performance of the composer's fourth symphony blazingly intense from the louring minatory brass opening, with whiplash fortissimo chords, right through to the closing manic accelerando. The orchestra's wind section were outstanding in the Andantino as Tchaikovsky wafts his melody from player to player. The brilliant Pizzicato ostinato was illuminated not merely by the quality of the playing (very classy) but Mirga's scrupulous adherence to Tchaikovsky's minute gradations of dynamics which made this very familiar piece sound fresh.

The flamboyant Kopatchinskaja was a joy to hear, and watch, in Stravinsky's Violin Concerto. The fiddle flourish which opens each of the four movements can sound identical but she gave each a slightly different character. She was adept at the differing roles the work demands of the soloist. In the second Aria, the nearest part to a virtuoso section, she sounded emotionally bereft, the winds crying out in anguish, as Stravinsky – who usually kept his heart hidden inside his double-breasted jacket – opened up. Kopatchinskaja was just as content to be a first-among-equals in the rollicking Toccata with its delicious galumphing comedy brass part using a style he exploited in his later 'Circus Polka'; a little light relief in an intense evening, as was Kopatchinskaja's gypsy-style encore with CBSO leader Eugene Tzikindelean.

Norman Stinchcombe

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