When a soloist really wants to engage

When a soloist really wants to engage


norman lebrecht

February 09, 2020

The latest Slippedisc review from the CBSO100 season spotlights a welcome new trend:

CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★★

Six years ago the San Francisco orchestra came here and gave us a Symphonie Fantastique which was as perfectly honed and smooth as a well-oiled machine, every surface polished and buffed to a dazzling shine. It was also about as intoxicating as a cold alcohol-free beer.

Klaus Mäkelä and the CBSO gave us the real thing, music with the visceral kick of grain spirit followed by several double espressos. The young Finn channelled his inner angst-ridden romantic hero and inspired the orchestra to a magnificent performance. Here was young Berlioz’s masterpiece in toto, its depths plumbed and heights soared to, rocketing from languorous debilitating ennui to hair-tearing frenzy, from passages of utmost quiet and tenderness to a raucous, brazen, grotesque finale. Memorable details abounded: Rachael Pankhurst’s dolorous cor anglais and the fiddles’ accompanying blanched desolation; a corps of energized timpani that made heads crane to get a glimpse of them; and convincing off-stage bells too.

“I want to make visit this my template”, Nicola Benedetti told us after a sparkling performance of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto. Instead of the usual soloist’s hasty hotel-platform-airport routine she gave a masterclass at Birmingham Conservatoire and an inspiring meeting with a hundred of the city’s young string players and their music teachers, in between two packed concerts. Oh yes, her playing was pretty nifty too: an opening movement that flowed with no self-indulgent dreaminess; a really spontaneous-sounding cadenza; a singing Andante – sweetly characterful wind playing – and a finale as vivacious as one could wish for.

Norman Stinchcombe



  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    Meanwhile, Barenboim was engaging with his audience in a different way last week. GIving a silent lecture in Cologne on how to use a handkerchief to stifle a cough


  • V.Lind says:

    Soloists giving Master classes locally while engaged has been commonplace at several Canadian orchestras for years.

  • Derek says:

    Nicola Benedetti is so dedicated and always positive and encouraging. She is appreciated and respected.

    Klaus Makela is exceptional at his age and I am sure we will hear a lot more of him in the future.

  • SemiSalty Doc says:

    Oh! your characterization of the San Francisco is spot on! I characterize it as a “chrome and marble” outfit – architecturally flawless, but cold and uninviting, quite a contrast w/ other regional symphonies which may be inferior in technique, but vastly superior in feel and – soul.