A different woman takes the Birmingham batonmain
Our latest exclusive review from the CBSO100 season, feturing the UK debut of a rising conductor:
CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★
Bizet’s Carmen has an abundance of great melodies, the sort of tunes the milkman could whistle – when he had milkmen. So catchy and firmly embedded in our musical consciousness, that we don’t even require the singers, as the orchestral Suite No.2 showed. German conductor Anja Bihlmaier (pictured) has worked extensively in the opera house and was right at home here, coaxing some sparkling playing from the orchestra in the sultry Habanera and the whirling bacchanal of the Danse bohème. Alan Thomas’s cornet gave us the swaggering toreador Escamillo and guest leader Tamas Kocsis, a chaste but tenderly beautiful Micaela.
Gypsy music, of Hungary rather than Spain, was also the inspiration for Ravel’s Tzigane. What a performance from Renaud Capuçon. Dazzling, scintillating, coruscating – add further adjectives as required. The double stops whizzed by and the pizzicatos pinged as the Frenchman, supported with some lovely piquant orchestral touches, brought the fiddling wizardry of a bygone era back for ten minutes. Before the fireworks came Chausson’s Poème with Capuçon’s shimmering tone perfectly gauged for this study in silver-grey melancholy and restrained ardour.
Bihlmaier conducted a lively, colourful but oddly superficial performance of Dvořák mighty Symphony No. 7. Like a hasty charabanc trip through Bohemia we saw the sights – the woods and fields, a bit of folkloric dancing – but always glimpsed through a window. There was little of the symphony’s dark D minor depths. Bihlmaier needs to note that the furiant dance in Dvorak’s scherzo needs as much idiomatic rubato as does a Strauss waltz.