This is a good week for Mendelssohn at Birmingham Town Hall. On Saturday his spirit will surely hover smilingly around his organ-loft in this beautifully restored Wedgwood palace, as Ex Cathedra performs the original edition of his great oratorio Elijah for the first time since its premiere here in 1846.
And last Sunday his exhilarating Italian Symphony made a joyous conclusion to the Orchestra of the Swan’s first concert in its second season as artists-in-association here.
I even heard groans of disappointment from audience-members that this delightful sunlit afternoon had come to an end.
“Delightful” was indeed the word for this programme of warm-hearted music-making, preceded by a well-attended pre-concert conversation with conductor David Curtis and violin soloist Jennifer Pike, each item itself genially introduced by Curtis (no precious hiding-away from the audience with this conductor), and each item delivered with infectious delight – that word again.
Pike’s account of Mozart’s G major concerto was aristocratic, elegant, poised of articulation and naturally singing in tone.
Her collaboration with Curtis and OOTS was one of genuine empathy and freshness, in music-making of an impressively high order.
Rossini’s overture The Italian Girl in Algiers had provided a frisky launch to proceedings, Richard Weigall’s oboe solos eloquently phrased, and David Curtis controlling the famous crescendos to just the right pitch of excitement.
Back to the symphony, where Curtis’ perfectly-judged tempi allowed the more extrovert movements to spring into life, yet process purposefully with the pilgrims, and all the while giving space for these glorious intrumental colours to tell.
My only problem was with the too-low acoustic canopy, unbalancing the sound and giving too much prominence to the more assertive members of the wind complement.