CBSO review

TWO COMPOSERS WHO HATED EACH OTHER ON THE SAME CBSO PROGRAMME

CBSO
Symphony Hall ****

Though they did once manage a civilised dinner together, Tchaikovsky loathed Brahms with a passion. "That scoundrel, that talentless bastard," he wrote of him. Yet Tchaikovsky was ill-at-ease writing piano concertos, and Brahms wrote undoubtedly the world's greatest, which we heard during this packed matinee which whimsically brought the two composers together.
Brahms' Second Piano Concerto combines grandeur with chamber-music intimacy, and this account from soloist Rudolf Buchbinder and the CBSO under Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla was a perfect fusion of the two qualities. Important orchestral solos (horn from Elspeth Dutch, clarinet from Oliver Janes, and, above all, the tenderly-rendered cello obbligato from a player unknown to me -- probably a triallist, as principal Eduardo Vassallo was sitting modestly on the back desk, taking everything in) were beautifully integrated into the texture alongside Buchbinder's fluent, supple, well-nuanced performance.
His chording was strong (never mind the occasional accident, I'm sure Brahms wasn't above such things), his presence quietly magisterial throughout a work which is actually more than usually physically exhausting. This was a hearteningly unpretentious presentation of such a massive work.
We ended with Act One of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. Without the stage action much of this scene-setting music can come over as tedious, even in this shapely reading, but everything was always crisp and colourful, with some telling instrumental timbres (the bassoons in the Drosselmeyer music, for example).
As the story develops away from Nuremberg domesticity and on into vast wintry landscapes, so the music becomes more symphonic, and here Mirga and the CBSO were really on sweeping home-territory -- and the CBSO Children 's Chorus gave us probably the best "Ah"-factor we'll hear all Christmas.

Christopher Morley

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