Review: CBSO/Andrew Litton/William Wolfram, at Symphony Hall, Birmingham

It would be difficult to find a finer way to celebrate Chopin's 200th birthday than with this amazing performance of his Second Piano Concerto.
 
William Wolfram (a name new to me, but one for which I shall watch out from now on), delivered a scintillating account of the intricate solo writing, effusive decorations fluently assimilated into a poetically-phrased, fluent singing line, richly chorded where appropriate and subtly pedalled.
 
Andrew Litton, an old student piano colleague of Wolfram, drew an alert accompaniment from the CBSO. Chopin's orchestral writing is by no means as inept as some commentators would have it, and here the players relished all its opportunities.
 
Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture, carefully-delineated and sustained at first, then driven crisply and rhythmically, moved towards a love theme whose intensity here was almost too much too bear. Alan Thomas' piercing, fearless trumpet was matched by glorious horns taking the stage at the return of that wonderful love theme.
 
And Vaughan Williams' Symphony no.4 was searing and passionate, taking no prisoners, in Litton's reading with this pliant orchestra. Textures and timbres were consummately layered, instrumental solos (not least the flute on what I was told was a substitute instrument) were engaging, and the drama unfolded with relentless timing.