Symphony Hall * * * *
Review by Christopher Morley
Unless something sorts itself out, I fear the end of early-evening cultural activity in central Birmingham within the next couple of years.
My previous two trips into the city for the Hippodrome were bedevilled by immense traffic congestion, and on Wednesday night I found that someone had seen fit, in this run-up to the Christmas period, to block off half the spaces in the Brindley Drive car-park, much used by patrons of Birmingham Rep and Symphony Hall.
But there was a wonderful CBSO concert to reward everyone's struggles, beginning with an account of Mozart's most darkly passionate piano concerto, no.24 in C minor, dramatically smelling of opera-house sawdust as the composer intended.
Imogen Cooper was soloist, sturdy in her figuration (not even the tiniest note taken for granted) and turning the lyrical phrases with a vocal eloquence. It was heartening to see how she engaged with the orchestral passages, including adept woodwind contributions which almost reminded me of the cohesion of the settled section we enjoyed for so many years.
Vassily Sinaisky was the self-effacing conductor, wisely allowing Mozart to speak through his players. And his unfolding of Mahler's valedictory Ninth Symphony was equally modest, content for that greatest of composer/conductor's detailed instructions to weave their spell through the medium of this hugely experienced Mahler orchestra.
In a reading where every incident, like a Klimt painting, flowed into the next, not merely within but also across movements, Sinaisky exerted a wonderful control over balance and clarity of line, and the orchestra responded characterfully to every demand of the score.
Fittingly, the remarkable strings had the vanishing last word as the music limped towards its reluctant but accepting farewell to life.