One day short of the 20th anniversary of Symphony Hall’s opening concert, the CBSO almost replicated that heady programme. This time, though, it was Stravinsky’s Petrushka instead of 1991’s Firebird preceding Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe.
Andris Nelsons, born just around the corner from St Petersburg where the Petrushka Shrovetide Fair is held, brought a wonderful bonus of snowy imagery to the detail he found in this teeming score. Tattooing drums welded the scenes together (the phalanx of percussionists playing like a one-man drum kit), cornets and trumpets deployed both showmanship and sinister supernaturalism, solo woodwind evoked magic, and concertmaster Laurence Jackson added piquant violin solos.
This was a wonderfully colourful account of a score which demands so much in terms of melodic cell-nurturing and rhythmic cohesion.
Then came the Ravel, surely the work furthest from its miniaturist composer’s heart, tediously sticking to a feeble scenario, but always brilliantly scored. And Nelsons’ CBSO responded with dedication, not least the sinuous fluting of Marie-Christine Zupancic, while the CBSO chorus delivered all the ridiculous wordless vocalisings with aplomb. Some of the audience-friendly surtitles were risible, and occasionally illiterate.
Rating * * * * *