So the CBSO has reached 90, but is performing with all the spirit, vigour and adrenaline of a teenager. Credit of course to all the players, but immense credit too to the conductors who have nurtured the orchestra through the past few decades – Louis Fremaux, Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo, and now Andris Nelsons.
Nelsons presided over last Wednesday’s anniversary concert, 90 years to the day since Elgar conducted the then CBO’s first proper symphony concert, newly resident in Birmingham Town Hall, and his programme was neatly constructed to mark the occasion.
We began with a party, the Suite from Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier, every department of the orchestra yet again on top form – horns both roistering and noble, woodwind eloquently intertwining, strings sumptuous and phrase-caressing (lovely solos from Laurence Jackson) – under Nelsons’ galvanising beat.
Over two years into his music directorship of the CBSO, Nelsons has relaxed so gratifyingly into the post, using such subtle conducting techniques to shape musical commas, and confident enough to inject humour into his podium-manner where appropriate – as happened in the jokey finale of Haydn’s Symphony no.90 (get the significance of the number?).
This was a neatly-turned, buoyant account of such a fascinating symphony, with some wonderful solos from flute, oboe, bassoon and cello.
The mood changed completely for the Elgar Violin Concerto. Rapport between Nelsons, the orchestra and soloist James Ehnes was miraculous, Ehnes singing a seamless song of wistful regret, his accompanists with him every step of the way. Eventually we arrived at the famous cadenza, the strings shimmering, Ehnes musing nostalgically in dark rich tones.