Review: CBSO Benevolent Fund Concert, at Symphony Hall
Given its familiar tripartite format, some people might not have expected much from the CBSO’s annual Benevolent Fund concert.
How wrong they were.
This was a terrific evening, by an orchestra in tiptop form collaborating with a conductor and soloist risen from its own ranks – Michael Seal, who when he is not on the podium as Associate Conductor continues to play Second Violin; and world-renowned pianist Peter Donohoe, who in his younger days regularly played orchestral piano and, occasionally, even percussion in the CBSO.
All three elements came together in a stupendous performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with Donohoe delivering a fully-integrated, listening interpretation (often turning during his tacets to appreciate the superb woodwind contributions) and an expressively powerful display of virtuosity.
The first movement began, as it should, in a studied nonchalant way, gradually working towards a gloweringly intense cadenza which Donohoe made sound as cogent as a second development section.
In the Adagio (Seal wringing every emotional ounce from the string opening) Donohoe and the orchestra acquired a lustrous, almost life-affirming, nobility that avoided any hint of sentimentality, while the Finale, taken at a cracking pace by Donohoe (you hardly noticed Seal’s gear change), became a super-charged, roller coaster dash to the finish.
Seal and his colleagues had even more fun with Shostakovich’s Festival Overture, with its opportunities for thrillingly resplendent strings and golden brass playing.
It positively erupted with ebullience.
So at times did Sibelius’s Second Symphony, if not always at the right moments. Although very well executed and of generous tonal proportions, this reading didn’t quite convey the work’s subtext of questing exploration.
Too much sunshine and not enough northern lights, perhaps?