Whoever programmed Tuesday’s CBSO concert is some kind of genius. We moved from grim oblivion (Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead to life-affirming energy (Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra), pivoting on both composers’ takes on Paganini’smost famous piece.
This was a spectacular success for Edward Gardner, presiding over his first concert with the orchestra since his appointment as principal guest conductor. In The Isle of the Dead his fluent beat allowed all the music’s relentless progress to make its mark.
In Lutoslawski’s Concerto he empowered striking orchestral virtuosity from all departments, shaping the structure of what is really a wonderful, under-appreciated work.
And the Paganini pieces: Barry Douglas was the unassuming but communicative piano soloist in Rachmaninov’s famous Rhapsody and Lutoslawski’s silky Variations.
Early in the Rachmaninov the sporadic brass interjections could have been delivered with more conviction, but this is nitpicking. The Lutoslawski was amazing, and I suggest a disc with this and the Concerto, plus perhaps the Third Symphony, would be a good introductory disc for the much-welcomed Edward Gardner to record.