The CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert

CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★

There could never have been any doubt of Sakari Oramo’s credentials as an Elgarian – he was awarded the Elgar Medal in 2008 for his efforts in advancing the composer’s music. His 2014 recording of 'Cockaigne', with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, is a personal favourite and Oramo’s grip on its phantasmagoric moods, variety of tone and instant switches between hearty bluster and romantic musing were demonstrated in a brilliantly played CBSO performance. Those difficult to negotiate mood changes start in the first few bars; here it was if we had access to Elgar’s thoughts. The “Stout and steaky” aspects of the overture were rollickingly well done, the musical equivalent of cockneys, thumbs in waistcoat and arms akimbo, strutting down the old Kent Road. The brass and percussion relished the military march but the beautiful melody – sounding like an early draft of the violin concerto – was caressed lovingly by the strings. I missed the closing notes of grandeur from the ad libitum organ which Oramo included in his recorded performance but omitted here.

Daishin Kashimoto, the first concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic., was the guest soloist for a sparkling, immaculately played performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.5, the last of a set the wunderkind composed when still a teenager. His provocative and playful sense of humour is evident from the start as after the themes are introduced by the orchestra in comes the soloist seemingly absent-mindedly musing before joining forces. Kashimoto’s tone was bright, vibrato evident but not indulgent and his cadenzas brief and cogent. The finale’s sudden switch to martial heavily-accent rhythms, and the stormy undulating string parts, were crisply done. I missed some of the sly insouciant charm that Baba Skride brought to her performance with the CBSO in 2021.

The merits of Oramo’s readings of the Sibelius’s symphonies was evident from the series of concerts and recordings he made with the CBSO twenty years ago. This interpretation of the fifth symphony was broader, tougher and more implacable than I remember from that earlier reading – and all to the good. The early journey (short in time but epic in musical scope) from the mysterious, shimmering opening to an emphatic brass-fuelled climax was smoothly negotiated. The pizzicato passage for cellos and violas, a master stroke by Sibelius, still raises the hairs on my neck. The final six chords – as emphatic as the close of Beethoven’s fifth – were as conclusive to this musical argument as the Q.E.D. of a philosophical one.

Norman Stinchcombe

Sakari Oramo, Daishin Kashimoto, the players and orchestral staff and management gave their services free to raise funds for the CBSO Benevolent Fund which provides financial assistance and support to active and retired members in times of need and contributes towards medical and therapeutic treatment for players. Further details on how to donate can be found at

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