at the Symphony Hall  * * * *
Review by Christopher Morley

Hairs on heads may be predominantly white, but Symphony Hall is always packed with enthusiastic music-lovers whenever the CBSO performs one of its wonderfully-supported matinee concerts.

Wednesday afternoon was no exception, with an air of genuine excitement for this high romantic programme conveyed with immense zeal and elan under the empowering direction of former CBSO concert master Radoslaw Szulc.

With his insider's ear, Szulc is an instinctive concerto accompanist, and he encouraged the orchestra to a sympathetic collaboration with the gifted Freddy Kempf in Chopin's exquisite E minor Piano Concerto. This is music of musing introspection and gentle outpourings (film buffs may recognise it from Greta Garbo's Camille), and it demands the most subtle of touches from all concerned to make it work.

And it certainly did here, with a fabulously clear, biting orchestral sound in the dark, extended introduction before Kempf entered with his pulsating left hand underpinning an urgent, piercingly projected singing line.

With figurations pointing forward to Rachmaninov, Kempf tucked Chopin's coloratura ornamentation so deftly into the overall forward movement, investing even the most apparent simplicity of delivery with positive meaning.

Szulc had earlier presided over an equally darkly etched Mendelssohn Ruy Blas Overture, and concluded with a Tchaikovsky Symphony no.5 which eschewed glamour and pizazz and concentrated upon simple qualities of musicianship.

Elspeth Dutch's famous horn solo in the slow movement was unostentatiously communicative (and how we ought to praise the work of "bumper" Martin Wright, taking all the tutti burdens off his section principal so that she can deliver the goods so effectively), brass overall were remarkably compact and cogent, and strings and woodwind sculpted a reading where Tchaikovsky, instead of any interpreters, made the paramount impact.