CBSO/ Søndergård, Symphony Hall
Though we scarcely need reminding, Tuesday’s concert was an example of the strength the CBSO can boast in its section principals.
Here it was the turn of Marie-Christine Zupancic to shine, as soloist in Nielsen’s quirky Flute Concerto. Stunning in a beautifully-fitted electric-blue gown, she responded adroitly to the work’s blend of the pastoral and the pert, withdrawing into the self-searching ruminations which are so characteristic of the composer, and delivering amazing subtleties of colour and timbre across the octaves of her instrument’s registers.
The notorious, swaggering bass-trombone interjections were given significant prominence, without obtruding unduly in this alert, well-balanced, chamber-musical account under the engaging conducting of Thomas Søndergård.
Søndergård began with two delightful movements from Sibelius’ Scenes Historiques, scarcely disguised cock-snooking at the Russian overlords of that period. Sweeping and surging, this performance emphasised the value of the CBSO horns, the resourcefulness of its percussionists (castanets, no less, in the grim but Mediterranean-loving Sibelius), and did not baulk at the many intimations of the composer’s great symphonies. This was revealing indeed.
Søndergård’s interpretation of Dvorak’s magnificent Seventh Symphony might have been perceived by some as hard-driven and unloving. Quite the reverse, as this was a reading which affirmed how much Dvorak’s symphonies can match those of Brahms, but with added testosterone,
The impetus noticed in the Sibelius was here magnified to inform the underlying tensions of Dvorak’s symphonic structure, with scarcely a moment to catch the breath. Strings carry the weight of the composer’s argument, and have to do duty both as portentous support and as dancing interludes, and concertmaster Laurence Jackson had these superb players responding to every demand in Dvorak’s imposing yet joyous score.