Review: Birmingham Beethoven Cycle: Symphonies 6 & 7
Andris Nelsons/CBSO, at Symphony Hall

 
Wagner, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and all the others: since his appointment in 2008 Andris Nelsons has brought us countless riches in his performances with the CBSO.

But it was with the meat-and-potatoes of Beethoven that he delivered his finest (even by the standards we have come to expect) concert to date, two middle-period symphonies which revealed just how much of an exhilarating bond has been forged between this amazing conductor and his equally amazing, willing players.

And how better to exemplify this family atmosphere than with Beethoven's modest little Romance in G for Violin and Orchestra, CBSO concertmaster Laurence Jackson as soloist, commanding in multiple-stopping, lyrical of line, and utterly persuasive as to the merits of this delicate work.

Jackson withdrew, and we were soon into Beethoven's Symphony no.6, the Pastoral, Nelsons shaping his interpretation with a natural sense of space and time, effortlessly-achieved rubato in the phrasing and a gorgeous moulding of accompaniments to melodic lines -- fabulous flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon solos.

This was a cogent, well-structured reading, everything moving towards the apocalyptic storm (climactic piccolo, timpani and trombones) followed by the heartbreakingly wonderful Shepherds' Hymn, its harmonic climaxes so well-judged by Nelsons.

Are there any other orchestras where the concertmaster, having performed as a concertante soloist, would return to lead his colleagues in the second half of the concert?

Yet that was exactly what Laurence Jackson did, heartwarmingly affirming the relationship Andris Nelsons and the CBSO share.

Or perhaps Jackson just wanted to be part of what turned out to be an amazing Beethoven Seventh Symphony.

This was a reading where rhythmic propulsion was coloured by brilliantly-shaded dynamics, where phrases were given a sweep which gave the music a life of its own, where individual contributions were never listen-to-me obtrusive but slotted into the life-enhancing texture of music where words are inadequate.

Joyous, yes, but with a slow movement which caught the breath.

And Nelsons, sometimes not even hectoring with a beat, probed so naturally and instinctively to the heart of this wondrous work.