Dvorak’s New World Symphony CBSO at Symphony Hall - Norman Stinchcombe

The CBSO’s new season got off to a cracking start with Dvorak’s rarely-heard overture Othello and finished with a boisterous encore, as the composer’s foot-tapping Slavonic Dance in G minor sent us smiling into the late-summer evening. In between Omer Meir Welber conducted a performance of Dvorak’s ninth symphony that would have blown away any lingering post-holiday languor in the players – like a double PE session on the first day back at school. Welber’s manipulation of tempo in the first movement – extreme in both ways – threatened the music’s integrity but the famous Largo was well-shaped and Rachael Pankhurst’s cor anglais solo was perfect in its poignancy. Welber and the players excelled in the scherzo where the alternations of fervent dancing energy and laid-back rusticity were seamless.Getting the great violinist Gidon Kremer as this season’s artist-in-residence was a coup for the orchestra. He shares a Baltic heritage with music director Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla – he was born in Latvia and she’s Lithuanian – and a mutual admiration for the Polish (later Soviet Russian) composer Mieczysław Weinberg, whose music they will be performing together later in the season. At 71 (venerable for a fiddler) Kremer’s performance of Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 1 showed that he has lost none of his powers – precision, projection and the unteachable ability to make the music sound fresh and newly minted. In the Allegro giocoso, for example, Kremer gave the early grotesque little phrase a humorous, almost speech-like quality like a nervous person gabbling their words – a remarkable effect.

Norman Stinchcombe

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