The story of how the Seventh Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich came into the world is a heroic one: written while the composer was firewatching during the near two-year siege of Leningrad during the Second World War, the microfilm of its score smuggled out for performance in the West, this is the real stuff of the triumph of art over adversity.
Yet this Leningrad Symphony is a deeply flawed work, spectacular on the surface but sprawlingly structured. The famous jackbooting advance of totalitarianism (whether Hitler’s or Stalin’s we shall probably never know) is depicted with the cumulative unstoppability of Ravel’s Bolero – and what a tremendous underpinning the snare-drummer provided in Saturday’s CBSO account under an Andris Nelsons who seems to be permanently on fire.
But that episode risks going on too long, and the finale certainly does so, though Nelsons and his fabulous players screwed the tension up to a glorious release. Applause at the end was vociferous – not just from the audience, but also from the players, acknowledging what their maestro is doing for them.
Thunder must not be stole, however, from the UK premiere of Rolf Wallin’s Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra, a weighty piece mystical in content, patiently structured, and assiduously avoiding the military imagery associated with the solo instrument.
Hakan Hardenberger was the impeccable soloist, his virtuosity so demurely devoted to the demands of the music (which encompassed Miles Davis at times), and Nelsons’ CBSO collaborated with appreciative assurance.
Alan Sinclair, the ex-CBSO tuba player to whose memory this concert was dedicated, would have loved this programme: brass-coloured, but never to the detriment of all the other orchestral timbres.
Rating * * * * *