TCHAIKOVSKY AND BEETHOVEN - CBSO at Symphony Hall - Norman Stinchcombe

Febrile, furious and triumphantly joyous – this was the performance of Beethoven’s seventh symphony one longs to hear. The Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis took risks, which is appropriate for a work which made Weber declare that Beethoven was “ripe for the madhouse”. In the Dionysian finale the CBSO became a musical juggernaut with Carydis pushing the accelerator to the floor and accepting the challenge of Beethoven’s notoriously optimistic metronome marking. I expected the wheels to come off but it’s tribute to the CBSO players that not only did they reach the finishing line in one piece but that they delivered a brilliantly articulated and weighted performance. In the wonderful Allegretto Carydis urged the strings to play with the utmost quietness – clarity aided by his dividing the fiddles left and right – making the most of the movement’s magic.

The conductor’s countryman Perikis Koukos’s In Memoriam, a tender miniature threnody for strings provided an effective preliminary to Beethoven’s dynamism. Carydis introduced us to Nikos Skalkottas’ delightful Four Images, inspired by Greek folk dances, with its Prokofiev-like mixture of simplicity, tangy tonality and penchant for percussion. Despite, or perhaps because of, its fame Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is a difficult work to bring off. Here it sounded sounded episodic (structure isn’t its strong point) alternating hectoring declamation with salon elegance. Yulianna Avdeeva offered a hard-edged metallic tone which made the opening big tune sound crudely over-emphatic and, in the delicate Andantino, varied in volume but hardly a fraction in texture, colour or warmth.

-- Norman Stinchcombe

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