Review of CBSO Proms Performance

It's a promising start to the new season for the CBSO and their new Musical Director Mirga. They performed to a full house at the Proms the other night: have a look at the Guardian's review here in full or below as text:

If Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s concert with the City of Birmingham Symphony in January was effectively an audition, it was one she passed with flying colours. The following month, Gražinytė-Tyla was confirmed as the orchestra’s new music director, succeeding Andris Nelsons. Her return to Symphony Hall, Birmingham, a concert that was repeated at the Proms in London the following evening, then, was very much a coronation, and the real beginning of what promises to be another hugely significant chapter in Birmingham’s musical life.

Everything about this appearance suggested that the 29-year-old Lithuanian has already established a wonderful rapport with the members of the orchestra, and that her directorship is going to be very much a collegiate affair. From the opening of a fierce, almost combative, account of the overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute, to the sparkling romp through the final variation and coda from Tchaikovsky’s ballet Sleeping Beauty, added as an encore, with the orchestra’s triangle-player Toby Kearney brought down nearer to the podium for his prominent role, the sense of every player hanging on every flick and dart of Gražinytė-Tyla’s baton and responding precisely to them was clear to see and hear.

The drama that had been latent in the performance of the overture erupted in Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony in the second half of the concert. Technically, it was impeccable – it may be a standard repertory piece, which the CBSO has played under Nelsons and his predecessor Sakari Oramo, but this was just that bit more vivid than usual, more generously characterised in every detail. Gražinytė-Tyla seems to have that precious conductor’s knack of allowing players all the expressive freedom they want, while still being able to shape every aspect of a performance in exactly the way she wants.

The bewitching centrepiece of the evening was a repeat performance of one of the most remarkable works the CBSO has introduced in many years. In 2014, Nelsons conducted the UK premiere of Let Me Tell You, Hans Abrahamsen’s spellbinding song cycle, with a text by Paul Griffiths, taken from his novel of the same name, itself woven around the character and words of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Barbara Hannigan, for whom the cycle was written, was the soloist here again, and this shining, magical score shows absolutely no sign of exhausting all its subtle beauties. Hannigan was as peerless in her soarings and coloratura precision as ever, while Gražinytė-Tyla found even more beauties in Abrahamsen’s score than Nelsons had done, from the sinister pulsings that underpin the opening song, through the touch of almost Wagnerian richness in the fourth, to the shifting clouds of microtones from which the soprano line gradually emerges in the final setting. It is an astonishing work in a remarkable concert.

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