CBSO and City of Birmingham Choir
at Symphony Hall * * * *
Review by Christopher Morley
Recently it was my misfortune to overhear Faure's Pavane abused as an inappropriate backing for a gung-ho recitation of Kipling's doughty If.
It was a relief to hear this delicate piece given with the gentle, pastoral tones it requires, from the CBSO under Adrian Lucas on Saturday, though, given the presence of Lucas' City of Birmingham Choir, it's a pity the optional choral contribution wasn't used.
After this little gem came a thrill of a discovery (for me, at least) in the form of the Symphonie Concertante for organ and orchestra by the Belgian composer Joseph Jongen.
This large-scale four-movement work has elements of Debussyan sensuality about it, and never reeks of the mustiness of the organ-loft. Instead the soloist (here the mesmerising Thomas Trotter, up aloft instead of on the ailing portable console) engages in tight interchanges with the sumptuous orchestra, busy in the faster movements, voluptuous in the mysterious slow movement.
Trotter brought full, resourceful registrations and tireless, accurate energy to his performance, Lucas conducting the enthusiastic orchestra with an organist's insight.
These forces were joined by an imposing CBC and a hearteningly overflowing CBS Youth Chorus (both juniors and seniors) for Berlioz' splendid Te Deum, one of the few works where his imagination was matched by his technique – he was always at his best in ceremonial music.
Adrian Thompson was the tenor soloist, with a smooth, ringing line in his small but significant contribution, but the overall impression of this performance remained disappointingly underpowered.
CBC sopranos seemed reluctant to attack, and surely some extra percussionists could have been recruited from the Conservatoire to underpin the sturdy march rhythms of the awesome concluding "Judex crederis".