The CBSO's well-intentioned Igorfest is taking us through some rarely-charted waters as it voyages through Stravinsky's lifetime output.
Saturday afternoon found us almost becalmed in a shoal of tiny orchestral songs, all written in the years surrounding the Rite of Spring. Little jewels they certainly are individually but so many together become indigestible.
But it was fascinating to hear the varied accompaniments Stravinsky provided for them, ranging from just three clarinets Berceuses du chat to full orchestra The Faun and the Shepherdess and Tilimbom.
And it was fascinating, too, to hear the composer referring back to the past (the Tchaikovsky of Eugene Onegin, and presaging the future Messiaen anticipated in the Three Japanese Lyrics.
Claire Booth and Lucy Schaufer were the warm-voiced, engaging, Russian-adept vocalists, and Paul Griffiths' presentation proved that critics can be performers as well. Sakari Oramo conducted with obvious pleasure.
Oramo also presided over two larger purely orchestral works: the strange, filmic Ode, a ragbag of ideas, and the witty, gently nostalgic Pulcinella, for once the largest work in a programme.
It was good to hear the CBSO in its own home, a move occasioned by the shenanigans of the Labour Party Spring Conference at the ICC, and necessitating an evening repeat of the concert.
By which time Ex Cathedra, under Jeffrey Skidmore, were delivering a taut, dramatic, flowing account of Bach's St John Passion in the perfect venue of Birmingham Town Hall.
The immediacy of the performances from choir, soloists and the colourful Ex Cathedra Baroque Orchestra conveyed all the essence of the most powerful and poignant story in western culture. Indeed, so gripping was Skidmore's direction of Bach's uncompromisingly concise score that, when the composer at last relaxes into long-winded reflection after the death of Christ, the music lapsed into comparative tedium, and the large-scale contours throughout of the St Matthew Passion came beckon-ingly to mind.
Ex Cathedra's democratic policy of drawing soloists from its own ranks was once again triumphantly vindicated. Naming individuals is invidious but there were wonderful contributions from sopranos Natalie Clifton-Griffith and Julia Doyle, Greg Skidmore as Pilate (what a sympathetic character he is given in this setting), and James Birchall as a commanding Christus.
But the palm must go to Nicholas Mulroy as the Evangelist, eloquent, rhetorical, outraged and lamenting by turns, and singing this huge part virtually from memory.