Brahms’ Double Concerto is a rarity in the concert hall and it poses difficulties of balance and shaping that were not entirely overcome here.
Although the two excellent soloists, Francesca Barritt and Edward Furse, were well matched in their approach, (and the intimate surroundings of the CBSO Centre meant that they were practically in our laps), the sweet toned violin with its singing legato lines could be heard much more easily than the equivalent but softer grained sound of the cello.
There were many beautiful moments, but conductor James Ham’s attempts to ensure that the soloists could be heard made the orchestra seem a little undernourished.
Sibelius’ Symphony no. 2 sounded much more confident, with full blooded strings and characterful playing from the wind and brass.
Ham’s direction made the piece an organic whole, full of incident and drama. Only in the Finale, with its tantalising series of crescendos and false climaxes were there some miscalculations and a loss of tension, but the ending when it arrived worked its usual magic, sweeping all before it.
Like policemen, orchestral players seem to get ever younger, the average age of this new orchestra can’t be more than twenty-five and they have already achieved much. I look forward to hearing them again.