Leila’s out, Berg’s snarling

Newest overview from Birmingham within the unique Slippedisc/CBSO100 season protection:

CBSO at Symphony Corridor ★★★

The gear change required between the opening andante and subsequent allegro sections within the first motion of Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 is notoriously troublesome to navigate. Begin with the well-known solo horn theme too slowly and portentously and when it returns triumphantly within the coda it’ll sound like a speeded-up report. Juanjo Mena prevented this pitfall; the tempi matched seamlessly and there was no want for an old-school ritardando. There was a worth to pay although as Mena’s relentless briskness gave it a Rossini-like lightness and banality. Elspeth Dutch’s horn name was excellent for Mena’s method however by no means instructed the promise of romance and thriller that left Schumann awe-struck. As we raced onward the symphony was steadily stripped of its majesty with solely small pockets of magnificence as compensation. Mena used a big physique of strings however, in not doubling the wind part, left a lot of their music inaudible.

These deficiencies had been highlighted by a splendidly attentive, scrupulously noticed and transferring efficiency of Berg’s violin concerto. Ilya Gringolts, a late substitute for the indisposed Leila Josefowicz, was all the time gritty sufficient for the concerto’s occasional acerbities, there was a spirited tussle with the snarling trombones because the soloist’s nemesis, but additionally produced taking part in of ravishing magnificence – the ultimate Bachian chorale was balm from heaven. Mena ensured that Berg’s massive orchestral forces had been dealt with deftly, all the time permitting essential particulars their full weight – such because the uncannily life-like impersonation of a small church organ by the clarinets of Oliver Janes and Joanna Patton.

Norman Stinchcombe


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