David Hart reviews the CBSO at Symphony Hall
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A significant part of Wednesday's concert, musically if not in length, was the premiere of Jonathan Girling's Grimm Tales: IV - The Water Nixie, commissioned as part of a Creative Partnerships project with five Birmingham schools, conducted with great aplomb by the CBSO's own Michael Seal.
The story, about children escaping from a pursuing monster by dropping miraculous objects in its path, is vividly brought to life in Girling's score - sparkling woodwind, a vast array of percussion, driving asymmetrical rhythms that often show a transatlantic influence - and the contributions of young musicians placed around the hall who play their percussion instruments (double-glass mark trees) in a sort of glittering surround-sound counterpoint.
It's wonderfully effective, particularly at the end, when these gentle tinkles and quiet wind noises fade magically into silence. If the other three yet-to-be orchestrated movements are as good as this, the complete Grimm Tales promises to be a stunning work.
Schumann's hugely contrasting Piano Concerto was given a clear-cut and tenderly romantic reading by the Norwegian pianist H?vard Gimse, achieving an almost chamber-music level of intimacy in its quieter moments. Manfred Honeck and the orchestra's support was also finely drawn and, unusually for a mainstream concerto, most beautifully played.
Honeck's Eroica, the first Beethoven symphony he has performed with the CBSO, if not exactly breaking new interpretative ground nevertheless reminded us what a remarkable composition it is. Adopting a classical string layout, with violins divided left and right, Honeck ensured textures were uncluttered and balance not too wind dominated. And he certainly gave us an emotionally charged funeral march, here so full of desperation and epic tragedy.