The CBSO has a long and proud Mahler tradition, stretching back to its earliest years under Adrian Boult. But it was spectacularly consolidated under Simon Rattle, continuing with Sakari Oramo, and now, with Andris Nelsons at the helm, we are celebrating both the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth and marking the centenary of his death next year.
This week we are savouring more performances of the Fifth Symphony than we deserve: two in Birmingham, and two in Nelsons’ Latvian home city of Riga for those of us fortunate enough to be there.
Tuesday’s account in Symphony Hall was a genuine progress from darkness (launched by Jonathan Holland’s imperiously funereal trumpet summons) to light, in a finale where all involved danced skittishly and exuberantly under Nelsons’ baton, which seems to disappear more and more, as this conductor more talented than he knows relaxes into his role as music director of one of the world’s greatest orchestras.
Along the way on this mighty journey there was biting string-playing, confidently underpinning brass and characterful woodwind. Harp and percussion played their part, too, poised to the split-second, sonorous with a massive presence.
It was good to revisit Judith Weir’s Storm>, lines from Shakespeare’s Tempest delivered with huge engagement (and from memory) by the CBSO Youth Chorus and Children’s Chorus (what an interesting contrast in timbres) under Simon Halsey’s inspiring direction.
Rating * * * * *