Review: CBSO/The Pathetique, at Symphony Hall
Let’s cut to the chase here, regretfully skating past a vibrant account of Tchaikovsky’s rarely-heard Voyevoda tone-poem, but pausing a little to savour the lyrical seamless performance of Richard Strauss’s warmly autumnal Oboe Concerto delivered by the CBSO’s principal oboist Rainer Gibbons to the huge and generous acclaim of his colleagues.
This was a genuine chamber-music performance, Gibbons and the players, marshalled under the persuasive baton of Andris Nelsons, listening to each other and interacting so effortlessly.
And Gibbons sculpted a singing line as finely etched as filigree jewellery, in what was an oasis of reflective calm at the end of a long life richly lived.
Not so long a life, and perhaps not so rewarding, was signalled by Tchaikovsky’s last work, his Pathetique Symphony, given here in a reading which by itself made this one of the most memorable CBSO concerts ever (and thankfully preserved in last Friday’s Radio 3 broadcast, as well as a forthcoming Orfeo CD).
Nelsons conjured so much tension and release, brought such a strong operatic approach where necessary and balletic poise, too, and uncovered the work’s true symphonic greatness in a reading which was quite simply the finest I’ve ever heard in the concert-hall (anyone who’s interested, I have an ancient World Record Club LP by the Sinfonia of London under Muir Mathieson which wrings out even more emotion).
The way Nelsons effected the transition between the hell-for-leather desperation of the scherzo and the cataclysm of sorrow which launches the finale was masterly, and the eternity of silence he commanded at the very end before allowing applause to start was a tribute to the receptiveness of this large audience.