CBSO Dvorak and Mendelssohn review

DVORAK AND MENDELSSOHN

CBSO at Symphony Hall ****

"I thought he was going to saw his violin in half," laughed the lady sitting behind me after Benjamin Beilman's performance of Mendelssohn's E minor concerto. That would have been a shame since he plays a 1709 Stradivarius whose lustrous silky tone the young American virtuoso demonstrated most effectively in his encore, a Fritz Kreisler bonbon. In the concerto Beilman was all fizz and precision, like Heifetz at his steeliest and least relenting, an approach best suited to its fiery opening and closing fireworks. Beilman enjoys running: does he ever stop, pause for breath, switch off his I-Pod and just gaze at the scenery? That's what his performance needed – a little stillness, a look at the concerto's slower, subtler beauties and a rather less kineticism.

Who needs to stroll through Bohemia's woods and fields when they have Dvorak's music? From the opening chirruping birdsong – Marie-Christine Zupancic's flute a delightful accompanying presence – the strings like branches soughing in the breeze, through an eventful sylvan journey (we wander into a menacingly crepuscular glade in the Adagio) to its sunny unbuttoned climax, this performance of his Symphony No.8 was unadulterated joy. Conductor Andrew Gourlay paced it adeptly, all purposeful energy without trudging or galloping, and only a cloth-eared clod could have resisted that seductive Allegretto grazioso. Dvorak gives his wind band the leading role in the symphony and the CBSO's players demonstrated their star qualities, as they did in Dvoƙák's Wind Serenade (nice programming) where Emmet Byrne (oboe) and Oliver Janes (clarinet) excelled.

Norman Stinchcombe

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