A 'big' concert in every way from the CBSO under Andris Nelsons. They started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture which they imbued with menace, foreboding and darkness, it was possibly a little brash, no doubt encouraged by the dramatic approach of Andris Nelsons, but it was a rousing start, eerily accompanied in it's quieter moments by the sound of the wind howling round the upper stories of the Anvil.
The last time I saw Shostakovich's Cello Concerto no 1 in E flat
was at the Barbican, well over 10 years ago, with Rostropovich (I think with
the LSO). Rostropovich, despite his age, gave a raw, brutal performance
utterly lacking in any form of sentimentality (there was enough of that from
the audience, the great man was much loved). Gautier Capucon feels differently
about the piece, not that there was any sickly sentimentality in his reading,
but it was a more mannered, meditative performance, more reminiscent of Elgar
maybe. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticising; this was a strong performance,
the piece demands that, and the interplay between the cello and the other
'solo' players was brilliant, Elspeth Dutch on the horn was particularly
good as was the passage with the celesta, the orchestra was well controlled
and the cadenza, as long as the first movement, perfectly balanced, again
the howling of the wind providing a perfect, if unintentioned, accompaniment.
It was a great performance by Capucon, nothing will replace Rostropovich's performance for me, it was one of those occasions when tears welled in my eyes, but this was a perfectly acceptable substitute, I shall be looking out for a recording from him.
And so the interval, one advantage of the Anvil - it serves real ale (currently Gold Muddler from Andwells, a local brewery).
And so back into the hall for Strauss' tone poem, Ein Heldenleben,
a piece I didn't know, much to the surprise of one of the gentlemen I was
talking to in the interval. I don't much go for Strauss and my prejudices
were re-inforced on noting the massed ranks of musicians packing the stage
and the opening of the piece; some call it 'kitchen sink' music, not because
it's domestic but because the composer throws everything into it, even the
kitchen sink, I'd go farther; for me the whole bathroom suite went in as
well. And it sounded a complete mess, this may be deliberate for all I know,
but I didn't like it. According to the blurb in the programme the poem is
autobiographical; depicting Strauss himself as the
great and manly
hero, hopefully this was meant ironically, but as the rest of the piece showed
precious little irony, I doubt it. It did improve, and the rest was, for
me, more enjoyable although I did find myself drifting off into reveries
about the preceding half. I'm sure it was well enough done, but the
applause for the second half was not nearly as loud or extended as it was
at the end of the first despite the excellent playing and entertaining conducting.
A good evening in general, despite the negative thoughts about the second half; it's always good to hear unknown pieces, but I wish I'd left in the interval, personal preference probably, and don't let my prejudices prevent you from going to see the orchestra play this or other programmes, they are well worth seeing.
p.s. It was good that the Anvil re-opened the bar afterwards so that those who wished could sit and discuss the evening or just, as I did, fortify themselves with a cup of good espresso coffee ready for the trip home.