CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert review

SAINT-SAENS' "ORGAN SYMPHONY" AS IT SHOULD SOUND


CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★

Great support for the CBSO's Benevolent Fund Concert with the "Sold Out" sign on the orchestra's website. The capacity audience was treated to vibrant performances of popular classics with conductor Andrew Litton and soloist Thomas Trotter giving their services free. Trotter, Birmingham City Organist since 1983, was cheered to the gods for one of his party pieces, the concluding Toccata from Widor's Organ Symphony No. 5. The orchestra stayed in their seats and craned their necks to watch Trotter as he juggled an ostinato figure, an implacably marching bass line and some snazzy decorations all in his (seemingly) effortless style.

On disc Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 often has a church organ dubbed, sometimes crudely, on to a studio recording. Here was how it should sound, organ and orchestra blending perfectly and, with the doors to the hall's reverberation chambers fully open, a gloriously full and rich sound. Litton is a fine conductor of such lush, romantic pieces coaxing some gorgeous string playing from the orchestra while eschewing self indulgence by observing the poco direction in the swooningly sumptuous adagio. And, even when one knows it's coming, Trotter's great C Major entry in the finale was thrilling. The concert opened with a stirring performance of Sibelius's Karelia Suite, with delightful cor anglais (Rachael Pankhurst) in the Ballade and an irresistible swagger to the concluding march. Ravel's gentle Pavane pour une infante défunte was followed by Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, vividly played (bravo bassoons and contra bassoon!) and brilliantly paced by Litton.

Norman Stinchcombe

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