Pablo Heras-Casado, guest-conducting the CBSO, and piano soloist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet were well suited in many ways.
From the misty opening of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, Casado, conducting without a baton, directed with an impressive confidence and security, displayed in the most pleasing way: never overly busy, and inviting rather than imposing.
This approach was mirrored in the French pianist’s reading of Schumann’s Piano Concerto. Playing firmly but never aggressively, Bavouzet’s performance was one of sensitivity and thought. There were no egos on display here, and the dynamic between conductor and soloist was one of the most mutual I have ever witnessed. Despite this, though, a touch more drama would not have gone amiss, as evidenced in the thrill produced the few times the orchestra were allowed fully to stretch their legs.
This was similarly the case for Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. Whilst proving a pleasant, sunny respite from the snow outside, the piece fell just short of the exuberance that makes the work truly come alive.
Nonetheless, the second-half opener, Berceuse Elegaique proved a gem. Busoni’s eulogy to his dead mother is completely characterful of its 1910 genesis, with its romantic echoes yet unsettling foreboding. It utterly captivated. The players of the reduced-size orchestra did well, too, against a barrage of winter coughs.
Rating * * * *