Review: CBSO matinee performance, at Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Matinees are always special, especially when keen music lovers are inspired to come by private coaches from all around the region during winter’s cold blasts.

Audience members are often stalwarts from former years who now think twice about turning out on dark evenings to hear their CBSO heroes.

However, afternoon concerts are a great introduction to live music for schoolchildren as we saw here. Great stuff; keep up the good work, orchestra management as well as players!

A reduced orchestra began with Beethoven’s ‘Egmont’ Overture at a sedate pace after the opening declamatory chords. Andres Orozco-Estrada conducted with vim and vigour but failed to inspire the orchestra.

Thankfully we were treated to sumptuous Stradivarius sonorities from Akiko Suwanai, a very fine soloist playing Heifetz’s superb 1714 instrument. What a privilege.

Originally deemed impossible to play, Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto held no problems for this violinist, the youngest-ever winner of the international Tchaikovsky Competition.

Intonation was not always perfect, but then this was a performance not a test; a joy to hear with splendid orchestral support: wonderful double-stoppings, sparks flying in passionate interchanges, heart-stopping pianissimos with woodwind and horns. A riveting performance.

Brahms’ First Symphony delivered the goods as anticipated. In spite of overt gyrations from the rostrum this was a taut rendering of a well-loved work.

Many solos from the orchestra were admirable, but the final unison melody with horn (Mark Phillips) and heart-stopping violin from leader Laurence Jackson was memorable.