Slim, boyish-looking as he stood at the centre of the Town Hall stage modestly acknowledging several thunderous standing ovations, George Caird could scarcely be taken for someone about to retire after 17 years of service to one of the country’s most prestigious educational institutions.
But that was indeed what happened on Thursday, as Professor Caird stepped down as principal of Birmingham Conservatoire, having led it to the forefront of music education in Europe and beyond.
There were citations and ceremonies for this much-loved musician whose obvious administrative and facilitating gifts have robbed us perhaps of as much of his oboe-playing displays as we would have liked.
But at last, at the end of an evening which brought us Elgar’s In the South Overture from the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, rough-hewn and exuberant, string tone gossamer under conductor emeritus Lionel Friend, a sturdy and coruscating Arutiunian Trumpet Concerto from soloist Zoltan Vincze, and a liltingly-phrased (despite occasionally sour woodwind chording) Delius Brigg Fair, we wallowed and squirmed with delight in Caird’s gorgeous delivery of Richard Strauss’ Oboe Concerto.
This unique work, written at the end of an old man’s life, could not have been a more appropriate farewell from this still youthful oboist as he shaped its wonderful pages like the Pied Piper he is – captivating music’s young people.
Rating * * * *