Review: Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts CBSO, at Birmingham Symphony Hall
As music critics get older, so conductors get younger and younger.
Apart from the astonishing two-year-old conducting Beethoven Five on YouTube, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any maestro looking as childlike as did Santtu-Matias Rouvali on the CBSO podium.
Something of a cross between TinTin, Bart Simpson and Just William in his ill-fitting tulip tails, and with sweeping, world-embracing gestures from both hands mirroring each other, and with an as yet gauche platform-manner, this new Finnish prodigy has a clear, accurate beat (Daniel Harding at the onset of his career comes to mind) and has the sense to learn from the expert players under his baton – and they get no more expert, nor more willing, than the CBSO.
And this world-class orchestra rewarded him with well-turned accounts of Lieutenant Kije, Prokofiev’s cleverest if emptiest score, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in Ravel’s ineffable orchestration (do we really need any other?).
Alan Thomas’s querulous trumpet was fabulous here, but the probably expensive surtitles announcing each picture were superfluous.
Alisa Weilerstein was the soloist in the Dvorak Cello Concerto, her tones lovely and throaty, her bowing wonderfully fluent, and at the end her performance she was complemented by the sweet solo violin of Laurence Jackson, the CBSO’s much-loved leader happily back with us after a long illness.
But many visual elements of the evening were distracting. This was a concert which would have been better enjoyed with the eyes closed.
Rating * * * (*)