Like its predecessor the previous week, last Wednesday’s CBSO concert proved an example of inappropriate programming at this busy time of year.
We certainly didn’t want Christmassy fare – all that tinsel comes upon us all too soon – but I think solid meat-and-potatoes is the order of the day to tempt people out on a cold winter night into the traffic and parking wilderness which is Birmingham city centre.
Whatever the reason, comparatively few people were at Symphony Hall to hear the UK premiere of Jukka Tiensuu’s False Memories I-III: Morphoses for Orchestra.
In the manner of Pierre Boulez, this is ongoing material, and the movements can be performed in any order, or individually: but lacking the rigour of Boulez, this is music, vivid and arresting as it is, which really needs a film to accompany its sound-tracking.
It works in short-breathed bursts of energy, with a central movement of slithery hypnosis, and the CBSO players responded with gutsy fire under the persuasive baton of Robert Spano.
Indisputable mastery both of creation and delivery came with Jonathan Biss’ account of Mozart’s E-flat Piano Concerto K271.
This is a miracle of composition (too many felicities to detail), to which Biss responded with clarity of articulation, shapeliness of phrasing, and a constant bright-eyed awareness of the riches he was purveying.
Spano’s reading of Sibelius’ Symphony no.2 began with plenty of tension but insufficient climactic release.
But as the performance progressed, so did the necessary balance, and we were able to share in this Nordic composer’s journey from the frozen north to the warmth of Italy where he completed the work, whose finale radiated with glowing sunshine in this account.