Review: Thomas Trotter/CBSO, at Symphony Hall, Birmingham
The CBSO is approaching the 50th work commissioned for it by the generous Feeney Trust, and the latest, Poul Ruders’ Symphony No.4 (An Organ Symphony) ranks right up there among the most successful.
Receiving its UK premiere on Wednesday (it had already been heard in co-commissioning Dallas and Odense), it proved a winner on so many counts, not least because it made resourceful, imaginative use of Symphony Hall’s fabulous organ - and the use of the portable console, right at the front of the stage, allowed an enthusiastic audience to witness all Thomas Trotter’s artistry as well as the instrument’s mechanics.
Ruders’ main thrust is to integrate the sound of the organ with that of a large symphony orchestra, whether in hazy overlappings of chords and timbres, or in active figurations where busy woodwind lines sound like organ textures -- and vice versa.
No note of this 30-minute work seems redundant, and the pacing of the four movements, sometimes building to climaxes of great power, at other times contemplative and quirky, constantly holds the attention.
And Ruders’ habit of giving most of the movements an abrupt little sign-off was actually charming.
Trotter played with verve and total empathy with the orchestra, conducted authoritatively at short notice by Nikolaj Znaider, yet another brilliant violinist who also conducts.
The response from the auditorium was warm and appreciative.
Znaider also presided over an account of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony which allowed all the orchestra’s glories to tell: effulgent strings, woodwind of almost human eloquence, and well-rounded, clearly-articulated brass.
These mighty paragraphs were well built, though the occasional accelerando seemed inappropriate.
But for all the impressive execution of the music, this resplendent score remained under-powered (even the adagio’s percussion-driven climax), suave and elegant rather than open-hearted.