So, now it really is all over: and if it felt strange that Andris Nelsons’ very last performance as music director of the CBSO should be taking place so far from home, the fact that the BBC invited them to give the traditional annual Proms performance of Beethoven’s Ninth – and then broadcast it on BBC4 as well as Radio 3 – shows that they recognised the national, and indeed international, significance of the occasion.
But it’s in Birmingham that this concert will have struck home most deeply.
The vast architectural space that Nelsons opened up with the first chords of Beethoven’s Prometheus overture , and the crackling, high-voltage precision of the allegro that followed took you straight back to those first, electrifying concerts in 2007.
And it was a nice idea to let London catch up with John Woolrich’s 2009 contrabassoon concerto Falling Down - with its dedicatee, the CBSO’s Margaret Cookhorn, easily commanding this huge venue.
And then on to the Ninth: a performance that transcended the acoustic and a patchy quartet of soloists to develop an intense humanity.
At first, it felt understated; but as Nelsons let inner voices sing out, and gave space for the woodwinds and horns to be their gloriously musical selves (has Marie-Christine Zupancic’s flute ever sounded more sweetly, poignantly expressive?), you began to sense a massive, tidal undercurrent of symphonic movement.
By the time the CBSO Chorus was blazing with white-hot fervour through Beethoven’s final chorus, the build-up of emotion was almost unbearable.
With its glowing sound, cosmic vision and quiet, piercing moments of both pain and joy, it’s tempting to say that this felt like a Ninth filtered through Parsifal - “made wise through compassion”.
It certainly proved just how far Nelsons and the CBSO have come together since 2007, and how all the energy, spontaneity, and mutual affection that this orchestra and conductor have shared since day one - and which was pouring off the stage tonight - has matured into a great artistic partnership, cut heartbreakingly short.