Within an all Russian programme, Andrew Litton directed the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in a masterful performance of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony.
The American, who was influential in his time as Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, displayed a firm comprehension of the score from its outset, setting an unsentimental tempo that accentuated the work’s iciness. Litton doesn’t sugar-coat his demands and the CBSO responded with great flexibility, shaping the first movement’s giant crescendo into a terrifying, muscular climax.
A mesmerising account of the savage allegro followed. It would be hard to imagine how this could have been any better.
Preceding the symphony was Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. Soloist Simon Trpceski’s delicate touch produced an effective, silvery sound in the concerto’s quieter passages, but balance proved an issue in others with the hall’s resonance chambers fully open in premature anticipation of the symphony.
Opening the concert was the overture to Prokofiev’s opera War and Peace. A curious piece to hear out of context; its slowly undulating brass chords make it sound more like a solemn fanfare than a concert opener.
Rating * * * *