HERE we are, halfway through the CBSO/Halle Nielsen festival celebrating all the Danish composer’s symphonies and I’m left wondering if you can have too much of a good thing.
Saturday’s programme from the CBSO crammed a lot of Nielsen into a lengthy evening, when one work at a time perhaps would have focussed more specific attention upon him. As it was, there was the risk of indigestion, not least when the main work of the first half was his problematic Symphony No 6.
Ironically labelled “Sinfonia Semplice”, this last work from Nielsen in the genre is anything but. After its tremendous opening movement, the rest descends into a kind of pantomime where Shostakovich meets Mahler on the fairground, Bartok gets a look-in and an applied irony becomes paramount.
It puts huge demands on the players: scudding strings later required to melt, proudly intoning horns, woodwind exposed variously to psychodramatic solos and unflinching counterpoint. The CBSO under Okko Kamu -- how good it was to welcome back this principal guest conductor of long ago, replacing the indisposed Sakari Oramo -- were in magnificent form as they had been for the queasy Helios Overture, not sure whether it should be presaging the open-air soundworld of Copland or embracing the hieratic glitter of Mussorgsky.
After all this, the suite-like Four Temperaments Symphony no.2 impressed only superficially: surging in energy, sharp in attack and power when required, but evoking memories of Bruckner and Elgar when we should have been Nielsening.
Akiko Suwainai’s sweet, fairytale account of Prokofiev’s magical Violin Concerto no.1 risked disappearing amidst all this, but her deft delivery of all the articulative demands remains impressed upon the memory.