The CBSO has a proud history of its own principal players stepping up to the plate to play as soloist in concertos, and Elspeth Dutch has done the job gloriously several times during her near ten-year tenure as queen of the horn section.
In front of a Thursday matinee house packed to the rafters she delivered a bracing, exhilarating account of the compact, action-packed Horn Concerto no.1 by a Richard Strauss bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the start of a long composing career.
Her ringing, well-formed tones encompassed all the music’s range, from forest sounds to noble declamation, everything subtly phrased. And collaboration from her orchestral colleagues under Olari Elts was generous and willing.
Elts is a fascinatingly resourceful conductor, his body-language terse but so expressive (I loved his baton corkscrewing articulation out of various wind sections).
His reading of Beethoven’s First Symphony was packed with personality. light and as intimate as chamber-music in parts, and textural detail was laid out with clarity.
There’s not much textural clarity in Schumann’s endearingly well-meaning Spring Symphony, but many memorable ideas, not least in the gorgeous larghetto.
Its performance here displayed formidably rattling brass and timpani, and its rambling discourse was channeled into making a lot of sense, for once.
But to conclude with Strauss again: the CBSO’s recent record of triumphs in the works of this virtuosity-demanding composer was maintained in the Introduction and Waltz Scene from his autobiographical (yet again) opera Intermezzo, gaudy yet stylish, and given with spirit, elan and sumptuous tone.
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