CBSO with Debussy at Symphony Hall by Christopher Morley

Despite the best efforts of all the various vested interests simultaneously contriving to make Broad Street a no-go area, the clogging of the Five Ways traffic-lights, and the closure of an advertised diversionary route, I just about managed to get to beleaguered Symphony Hall in time for this remarkable all-French concert from the CBSO.
Debussy's magical Nocturnes painted their aural pictures with a subtle underlying impetus, conductor Ludovic Morlot etching together wonderful mosaics of sound from an array of solo contributions, though very special was the fabulously distant trumpet panoply in Fetes.
Spaced out across the choir stalls, the CBSO Youth Chorus sang magically and scorelessly in Sirenes, many of them breaking their holidays to perform here.
Lili Boulanger was not much older than these youngsters when her short life came to its painful close in 1918, and perhaps her astounding setting of Psalm 130, Du Fonde de l'Abime was a desperate vision of her demise.
Its performance here under Morlot was perfectly attuned to its well-paced structure, the orchestra, not least cellos, rasping organ and the important tuba, gratefully responsive to its superb orchestration, the CBSO Chorus projecting the French text vividly and soaring to climaxes.
Mezzo Justina Gringyte, dressed appropriately a la Lili,  delivered otherworldly solos, which will surely have sounded marvellous in the Royal Albert Hall for the following night's Prom performance. What a pity the appealing tenor solo from the Chorus went un-named and unacknowledged.
Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe provided a sumptuous display of orchestral virtuosity, especially the extended Pantomime from the flute of Marie-Christine Zupancic, and the trumpets' roulade during the Danse Generale, and the Chorus were heroic in their filmic ululations. But what a tedious storyline this is, and one can sense Ravel struggling to sustain one of his longest works without the support of a sung libretto.
Christopher Morley

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