There are conductors who can make a fair fist of busking their way through the most complex of scores, knowing that the listener will not know any different, but who fall on their face when faced with the uncompromising clarity of Mozart.
Andris Nelsons is not one of those charlatans. Busking isn’t in his make-up, and his approach to Mozart is both joyous and reverential, as his recent CBSO programme devoted entirely to the composer revealed.
He began with the Haffner Symphony, lively, springy, with a fruity bass sound, breathtaking string articulation in the andante, and with an idiomatic Viennese lilt and rubato in the Menuetto’s Trio.
The CBSO’s own principal flautist, Marie-Christine Zupancic, was soloist in Mozart’s G major Flute Concerto, bringing wonderful pastel tones and subtleties of phrasing and shading to her performance, matched by an alert accompaniment from her orchestral colleagues. One suggestion: rather than stand silently as the concerto ends, why not join in and double the first violins’ line.
And we ended with the sublime Requiem. Never mind scholarly nitpickings about the various completions of this unfinished score from Mozart’s deathbed, we just bathed in the sounds, now consoling, now dramatic, of this unique final testament of a composer taken from us far too young, as unfolded in Nelsons’ swiftly-paced yet loving reading.
The solo quartet was well-blended (though tessitura was occasionally too low for baritone Benedict Nelson), the orchestra allowed all the textures to shine through (top marks to the busy trombones), and the CBSO Chorus, grouped in SATB fours rather than in voice-type blocks, delivered with striking immediacy. Applause came blessedly long after the final notes died away.
Rating * * * * *