Vaughan Williams’ oboe concerto received its first CBSO performance for more than 30 years – and it’ll probably be another 30 before it’s heard again.
Rainer Gibbons was the eloquent soloist, nimble and neat in the scampering minuet and spinning some elegant lines in the finale. Even Gibbons’ persuasive advocacy, and the CBSO’s excellent string players, couldn’t disguise the fact that most of the work consisted of discarded chips from the fifth symphony, echoes of The Lark Ascending and the pleasantly generalized pastoral music RVW could compose by the clothier’s yard when not truly inspired.
Andrew Manze conducted Mozart’s Symphony no. 25 in G minor, with string players really digging in for a trenchant performance of this youthfully romantic work. However the wind sounded edgy and the horns were especially gruff. At one point a toddler in the audience let out a despairing wail – a youthful critic obviously.
Schumann’s Second Symphony is a marvellous work but must be a conductor’s nightmare. In the opening movement the wind section could have been miming for much of the time as they were overwhelmed by brass and strings. Not Manze’s fault, just Schumann’s turgid orchestration. The scherzo was brilliant as was the finale with Manze unleashing the brass and timpani to great effect. The slow movement is the symphony’s madwoman-in-the-attic: woodwind wailing like a lost soul and shivering tremolo strings chilling the heart. It’s marked molto espressivo but Manze was perhaps not molto enough or maybe just as little too sane for this angst-ridden movement.