Sunday 27 January 2013

Simon Trpčeski with Andris Nelsons and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at Malvern

Living on the borders of Herefordshire and Shropshire, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is very much my local band. Over the last three decades the CBSO has been incredibly lucky or perhaps incredibly canny in their choice of Music Directors. Sir Simon Rattle, following his appointment as Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser, later Music Director, in 1980 (aged only 25) developed the CBSO into the world class orchestra it is today. He was also the driving force behind the building of Symphony Hall, Birmingham that opened in 1991 and is now the home of the CBSO.

When Rattle left the CBSO in 1998 it was thought that he would be an impossible act to follow yet in their new Music Director, Sakari Oramo, the orchestra continued to do great things. The same thoughts probably reoccurred in 2008 when Andris Nelsons took over as Music Director but yet again their choice was quite brilliant.

Whilst I try to get to Symphony Hall as often as possible, last night Andris Nelsons brought the CBSO to Malvern Theatres in a programme of Glinka, Chopin and Tchaikovsky. The acoustic of the relatively small Forum Theatre is a little on the dry side but Andris Nelsons managed to balance the orchestra exceptionally well with the strings never dominating and the individual sections clearly heard.

After a beautifully taut performance of Glinka’s overture Ruslan and Ludmila, Simon Trpčeski joined the orchestra for a performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor. It is often said that Chopin didn’t know how to orchestrate yet even before the piano entered, Nelsons showed just what could be brought out in the orchestral sound. Trpčeski’s way with the concerto was highly personal yet what wonderful things he found in the work. In the slow passages he would introduce a theme simply as though improvising before showing what could be developed from it. In other passages his playing was so fluid, showing what a great Chopin player he is. Trpčeski and Nelsons seemed wholly in tune with both finding so much joy in the music.

There is no doubt about Tchaikovsky’s ability to orchestrate and in his Symphony No.3 in D ‘The Polish’ Nelsons showed that the CBSO was on great form with a beautifully paced introduzione e allegro and a light crisp allegro moderato. Throughout there were many lovely details especially from the woodwind. The third movement andante elegiac was allowed to flow, rise and fall giving full reign to Tchaikovsky’s melodic creation. The fleet, brilliant scherzo was followed by an exhilarating allegro con fuoco finale that confirmed Nelsons’ overall architectural feel for the work, closing what was a terrific performance.

I must get back to Symphony Hall soon to hear more from this great orchestra and their brilliant Music Director.

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