Sakari Oramo could not have chosen two more life-affirming works than those with which he bowed out at Symphony Hall after ten heady years as music director of the CBSO, writes Chris Morley.
And how charming that his successor, the Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons, was in the audience on Thursday, metaphorically taking over the baton after this decade of triumph. Janacek’s Sinfonietta and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony blaze with cosmic conviction and energy.
The Janacek, 13 extra brass players poised commandingly aloft in front of the organ, bristled with exhilarating life-force. This is an old man’s celebration of youth, and Oramo and the CBSO took up its gauntlet fearlessly.
Horns bubbled and blistered, woodwind shrilled and danced, strings sang and dug deep into folk-rhythms. And the brass above rang proudly and assertively, leaving this tremendous piece ringing in our ears. Difficult to make room for the void which opens the sonic vastness of the Beethoven to follow this, but here Oramo succeeded triumphantly, with informed and intelligent adherence to the score.
Articulate, incisive phrasing (fantastic double-bass delivery) set against shimmering textural backgrounds allowed all the emotion and philosophical thought of Beethoven’s shattering conception to tell.
A taut, tense scherzo and a singing, soulful adagio were more than mere interludes before the mighty finale was unleashed, straight after the beatific idyll. Beethoven’s great melody entered almost tremblingly, gaining in warmth and affirmation, crowned eventually by the glorious projection and diction of the CBSO Chorus, singing (of course) from memory.
Though efficient, the solo vocal quartet seemed a little subdued, but the contribution of the choir and a CBSO pulling out even more extra stops than usual, plus a red-hot Oramo, made this a farewell no-one will ever forget.