Uplifting Mendelssohn from Gardner and the CBSO

22/10/2013

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Mendelssohn:  Baiba Skrida (violin), City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / Edward Gardner (conductor), Town Hall, Birmingham, 19.10.2013. (RD)

Mendelssohn:Symphony No. 4 (Italian)
Violin Concerto in D minor
Symphony No. 5 (Reformation)

One associates Edward Gardner both with contemporary and romantic repertoire at the London Coliseum, where this Mark Elder protégé and natural successor now presides so successfully, and with the miraculous Lutoslawski and Szymanowski he has recorded for Chandos.

So it was quite a surprise to meet him in Mendelssohn, whose cycle of five symphonies Gardner has just launched at Birmingham Town Hall with the CBSO, as its Principal Guest Conductor, and which will also find its way onto Chandos.

Gardner, who led off with the Fourth (Italian) and Fifth (Reformation) symphonies, wrapped around the E minor Violin Concerto sporting an excitedly-received late soloist, Andris Nelsons’ fellow-Latvian Baiba Skride, first alighted on Mendelssohn singing ‘Hear my Prayer’ or perhaps ‘The night is departing’ with Gloucester Cathedral Choir under the sympathetic John Sanders, the tenth anniversary of whose death falls in December.

One of the golden rules for Kapellmeister-conductors is ‘let them play’. And in some respects that is what Gardner lets his professional charges do. He does not boss, or dominate, or intrude: he makes possible, anticipates, enables. And the results are uplifting.

The CBSO violins were transformed by Sakari Oramo into a revelation: something much more sophisticated – and entrancing – than under Rattle or perhaps even Nelsons. A weak link? Their playing, two hiccups of intonation apart, is as good as ever, but the sound is neither as alluring nor as interesting.

Compare, on this occasion at least, the CBSO cellos with Eduardo Vassallo and Richard Jenkinson leading – a sound rich in warm and varied timbres, all desks gorgeous, sensitive and gorgeous, instinctively responsive. Witness their subtly expressive second Allegro of Mendelsssohn’s  Fifth, for instance.

Each of Gardner’s pacings served this cause well. The Italian’s opening had not just vernal bounce but rare restraint, authority. The Town Hall’s acoustic seems a little clipped; perhaps that too doesn’t help the upper strings. The Andante con moto with its lovely legato over light-stepped double basses (like bowed pizzicato) enchanted; it is a march that has Harold in Italy written all over it,  except that the Berlioz’s actually followed some two years later (in 1834).

The Reformation’s weighty opening movement reminds us of Mendelssohn’s mentors – just as Beethoven in the Italian, here Weber (Euryanthe, especially Lysiart’s double aria) and a symbiosis with his friend Schumann. Gardner has a wonderful way of effecting quite tricky link passages with minimal fuss. At four points in both Fourth and Fifth symphonies, they just happened. He anticipates – rehearsal has proved its worth – and they just do it. All bodes well for the recording.

The brass delivered with restraint, but not without the Reformation suggesting Lohengrin on the way (not just in their affecting Dresden Amen). The extended flute solo, some wonderfully articulated clarinet work, and the unexpected weight of Margaret Cookhorn’s admirable contra bassoon produced an exciting kaleidoscope of colour.

Add in the beauty and elegance of Skride and Gardner exploring the Violin Concerto, in which the slow passages of the first movement outshone even the eloquence of the Andante – sensationally linked by Greta Tuls’ serene, rather than forlorn, bassoon, and you can sense an evening of majesty, suspense and yes, even holiness. I felt lucky to be there.

 

Roderic Dunnett

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival’s 2020 online series of concerts and talks __________________________________
  • NEW! Glyndebourne 2020 cancelled and looking to the future __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Philadelphia announces Digital Festival O __________________________________
  • NEW! The Singapore Symphony in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020-2021 at Dresden’s Semperoper __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Southbank Centre in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020-2021 at London’s Barbican __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall’s 2020-2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Wigmore Hall in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Educating Rita, says who? __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2020 Salzburg Festival – 1 to 30 August __________________________________
  • NEW! Did we really need Vera Lynn during the war – and when will we all meet again? __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Three Choirs Festival – postponed __________________________________
  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! ACCOMPANIST OR PARTNER? PIANIST SUSIE ALLAN IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN QUINN __________________________________
  • NEW! Need to escape reality? Enter into the magical world of composer David Hertzberg __________________________________
  • NEW! BTHVN2020 – Beethoven anniversary goes into overtime __________________________________
  • SOME GOOD NEWS! Extraordinary generosity of the Longborough Festival Opera audience __________________________________
  • Remembering Margaret Rutherford: murder on and off screen __________________________________
  • Remembering George London’s life and legacy on the 100th anniversary of his birth __________________________________
  • PIANIST LOUIS LORTIE IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • PIANIST JONATHAN BISS IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH SARDINIAN TENOR PIERO PRETTI __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month