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Review: Dvorak's Sixth, CBSO at Birmingham Symphony Hall

Good to hear Dvorak's sixth symphony, the equal of his last three in all but fame, especially when performed with such a winning mixture of tender lyricism, rhythmic vigour and bravado.

Conductor Nicholas Collon

Good to hear Dvorak’s sixth symphony, the equal of his last three in all but fame, especially when performed with such a winning mixture of tender lyricism, rhythmic vigour and bravado. With the CBSO brass and Elspeth Dutch’s outstanding horn section in full cry the finale powered away like a ship in full steam down the Vltava.

The conductor Nicholas Collon’s pacing of the opening allegro was spot on and while the dynamic scherzo, with its cross-cutting rhythms, was exuberant Collon allowed the wind section to give full play to the trio’s Bohemian melodies.

They impressed again at the opening of the adagio which sounded like one of Mozart’s magical wind serenades. Perhaps Collon could have coaxed more from the strings when Dvorak invokes the spirit of the equivalent passage from Beethoven’s ninth symphony, or moulded the playing more, but perhaps that’s asking for perfection.

Carl Nielsen’s violin concerto is a puckish piece with a finale which the composer described as “charming – like an earnestly smiling layabout.” It’s a cheeky chappy of a work and Finnish soloist Pekka Kuusisto, happy to banter with audience and players, had imbibed its spirit. His playing was no joke though: some fantastic fiddling not just technically brilliant but full of character.

Kuusisto played Nielsen’s ironically titled “chivalrous” allegro as Sancho Panza, waggish and worldly wise and relishing Nielsen’s open-hearted big tune – terrific fun.

Selections from the ballet music of Mozart’s opera Idomeneo made a refreshing concert opener, music of grace and grandeur splendidly played.

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