CBSO/Manze * * * *
Review by Christopher Morley
Last week it was Mahler's First Symphony, with its orchestra of monster-sized proportions.
This week the CBSO showed its versatility by moving nearly two centuries back in time, delivering performances of baroque music which came very close to perfection.
Bach's Third Orchestral Suite, with its blazing trumpets (the intrepid Jonathan Holland, Wes Warren and Jonathan Quirk) and assertive timpani (Peter Hill crisp and incisive), was a great run-out for the orchestra to show how stylishly it can play in period guise, but the input of conductor Andrew Manze was a distracting influence.
With expansive gestures more appropriate to Berlioz than Bach (who would have directed from the harpsichord anyway), he over-emphasised dynamic contrasts, released speeds that only impressed for the virtuosity of the players, and shaped a veiled ending to the famous Air, which introduced a spurious romanticism into proceedings.
And it was amazing that he omitted the harpsichord from this movement, whose textures certainly need its support.
Unfortunately, not for the first time regarding the CBSO, the name of the keyboard-player was omitted from the programme.
Anonymously, he switched from harpsichord to play the important chamber organ part in Bach's cantata number 170 Vergnugte Ruh, an emotionally expressive piece whose important obbigati for oboe d'amore and flute were beautifully conveyed by CBSO principals.
Michael Chance was the expressive soloist, his countertenor tones perfectly weighted across the registers, his phrasing always eloquent and communicative, and in the lament Ach, dass ich Wassers g'nug hatte by Bach's first cousin once removed, Johann Christoph Bach, he responded gratefully to the music's striking emotionalism.
Manze's extragavant conducting style was more suited here, and in Beethoven's Eighth Symphony he achieved a good balance between the music's elegance and robustness.