CBSO WAGNER, MOZART, SIBELIUS

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY SHARES AN UNFORGETTABLE AFTERNOON WITH THE CBSO AT SYMPHONY HALL *****



Anyone who questions the value of the arts is obviously emotionally brain-dead, but even those who nevertheless know only the price of everything would have acknowledged the drawing-power of the CBSO for this packed-out matinee.

All the restaurants in Brindleyplace were heaving, and I'd shared a number 9 bus with a whole welter of people of a certain age coming into the city centre to eat, pre-event.

Strangely, the Symphony Hall auditorium was unwelcomingly gloomy, but the warmth emanating from everyone involved in what was really a wonderful concert heartened us all, the CBSO on fire under the smilingly genial direction of Vassily Sinaisky.

Wagner's Flying Dutchman overture, fizzing, rhythmically tight, brought both horror and uneasy jollity in this electrifying reading, and, just across the Baltic from the Latvia where Wagner conceived his opera (beautiful map in the programme-book), Finland's Sibelius gave us his First Symphony.

Right from Oliver Janes' searching clarinet solo, the orchestra then waking like a giant from slumber, this was an account which revelled in the nature and myth imagery latent in the score. Strings were both wiry and sumptuous, and Sinaisky sculpted cogent statements from every department of his willing orchestra.

Occasionally we bathed in warm treacle in parts of the slow movement, but the crackling drama of the finale, very much like that of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony, shook us out of complacency and chilled us with the unforgiving pizzicato ending.

Between these two large canvases Benjamin Grosvenor was soloist in a delightfully refreshing interpretation of Mozart's Piano Concerto in C major, K467. His articulation was crisp and crystalline, his inflections grew naturally out of the music, and he even brought risky, quirky humour to his interactions with the orchestra.

But most significantly of all, he probed beneath the well-trodden surface of this music. I pride myself on my immersion in Mozart, but I don't remember ever having been made so much aware of the thematic connections between the outer movements. And it was good to acknowledge the far-reaching soundworld of the slow movement instead of just bathing in it as a piece of soft-focus dreamland.

Christopher Morley

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