CBSO/Pogostkina/Oramo * * * * *
Symphony Hall
Review by Christopher Morley

Sakari Oramo concluded 2007 with the CBSO with a deeply thoughtful response to Elgar's Enigma Variations.

On Wednesday, with a packed house, he began his last year as the orchestra's music director with more Elgar, this time the fragile little Serenade for Strings, giving it a loving, natural reading where a huge corps of musicians was persuaded to play with the delicacy of chamber-music.

Sensitively-nuanced under a conductor who is himself an expert violinist, this was an interpretation full of intimations of the mature Elgar yet to come.

And as a violinist, Oramo well understood the mechanics of Mozart's Violin Concerto no.5, ebbing and flowing with the wonderful soloist Alina Pogostkina as her tirelessly eloquent tones, conversationally shaped, characterised her performance along the lines of a discussion among friends. In the serenade-like adagio her unfolding of a seamless singing line was exquisite.

Unlike the wonderful Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, Mozart's heart wasn't really in these solo concertos, so he filled them with gimmicks to maintain his own interest, and Pogostkina responded with aplomb. She and Oramo turned the finale's "Turkish" episode into something of a fitful sleeper's nightmare, and it worked.

There was more nightmare at the beginning of Holst's The Planets, Oramo summoning an inexorable, merciless Mars. Even the organ-pipes seemed to be glowing red in this infernal pounding.

Overall, this was an account which restored freshness and shock to what has become a hackneyed showpiece. Jupiter had a full-throated nobility at its core, framed by orchestral spectacle featuring amazingly unanimous phrasing from a duo of timpanists, Saturn was tight and gripping, and Neptune drifted into infinity with a wordless CBS women's chorus which was truly ethereal.