‘Hugely satisfying’ stand-in for sick Mirga

‘Hugely satisfying’ stand-in for sick Mirga


norman lebrecht

March 11, 2020

The latest Slipped Disc review by Chris Morley on the CBSO100 season:

                                                            Symphony Hall *****

Omer Meir Wellber was certainly high on the shortlist when Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla pipped him to the Music Directorship of the CBSO four years ago. Last night he stepped valiantly into the breach, covering for an indisposed Mirga, who is early into her second pregnancy.

This was no easy, bread-and-butter run-through of a programme, but one featuring one of Bruckner’s lesser-played symphonies, the Sixth, a captivating if strenuously demanding work in terms of concentration and flexibility of response from the players.

Its morse-code opening, high in the violins, was if anything too understated, but the music soon developed into huge, organ-like layers of sound, articulation now flexible, now tight, building to a natural climax which seemed like a huge affirmation, the underlying momentum bringing melodies riding nobly over throbbing accompaniments.

The deeply-felt delivery of the adagio had moments of introspective darkness, Wellber shaping each element organically, and the scherzo, for all its underlying grimness, allowed the CBSO horns to glow nobly. Wellber welded all the finale’s disparate ideas into a hugely satisfying culmination.

Before this we had relished a movingly convincing account of Bartok’s Third Piano Concerto from Piotr Anderszewski, the soloist finding both its improvisatory and worldly-wise qualities, the Hungarian plains colliding with the city life the composer was encountering in the USA. Chording from the soloist was fluent and crisp, his articulation crystalline, string sound from the CBSO was lush, punctuated by chattering woodwind, and all the music’s rhythmic nudges were effortlessly unfurled.


Christopher Morley




  • batonbaton says:

    They should have gone for him and not Mirga when they could – OMW is cementing his reputation as a conductor of worth and will before long have his pick of appointments.

    • Olassus says:

      He is remarkably energetic. I wish Chris Morley’s review above had provided a better description of what he did with the music. The symphony’s opening is indeed “understated”; that’s what B wrote. Not sure what “now flexible, now tight” means; articulation is either accurate, clear and expressive, or not. “The underlying momentum bringing melodies riding nobly over throbbing accompaniments” is gobbledygook to me. But “building to a natural climax which seemed like a huge affirmation” suggests that Meir Wellber was doing a good job, as does “welded all the finale’s disparate ideas into a hugely satisfying culmination.” It’s important that these new conductors can actually handle counterpoint!

      • Bass One says:

        I find most reviewers are past master of the art of gobbledegook.

        • RW2013 says:

          Indeed. My word to describe these rants, “unfurling nudges” and “colliding plains”, would have been twee.
          And I’ve already written Fremdschämen once here this week.

    • Cornishman says:

      It seems to me that Omer Meir Wellber and Mirga bring very different musical strengths and personalities to the table, and hence are almost impossible to compare directly. I do agree, though, that Wellber is a seriously major conductor, not least in big, romantic symphonies and opera. He really ‘gets’ Bruckner, for example, in a way that few seem able to.

      • Appleby says:

        They’re very different indeed and Birmingham is fortunate to be able to draw on both of them. But the qualities required from a music director at a major independent symphony orchestra are very different from those required from a guest conductor (or even the chief conductor of a BBC orchestra).

    • Appleby says:

      Wellber is indeed an outstanding talent but the CBSO’s players knew exactly what they were doing and made the right call from a wide field – as is blindingly obvious to anyone who attends any of their concerts with Ms Grazinyte-Tyla in Birmingham.

  • Lohengrinloh says:

    Obviously, Mirga has little to offer. I hope this trend to impose someone as a conductor just because of gender is over soon. Let’s meritocracy prevail.

    • Anthony Mason says:

      Oh yes, it’s so obvious that Mirga has little to offer – which is presumably why the stupid players of the CBSO sent those messages to the orchestra board to support her appointment. What do they know! After all, they’ve made so many dud
      choices of music director before!

    • Appleby says:

      Utter, uninformed garbage. Do you know anything at all about how she was appointed? Have you been to a single concert in Birmingham? Have you seen the breadth of repertoire she brings, the works she’s done across the city with students and young musicians, her relationship with the CBSO’s choruses, the packed houses at Symphony Hall whenever she’s on, and the response that she draws from the musicians (who chose her as MD without hesitation) and the audience?

      Clearly not. Find another mask for your misogyny.

      • Christopher Clift says:

        Appleby, I’m not sure that you haven’t missed Anthony Mason’s use of irony in his message about Mirga’s appointment. I am also very well aware of the CBSO selection process where their MD(s) are concerned

        I HAVE been to a great many CBSO concerts in Symphony Hall – indeed I was at the Bartok/Bruckner concert last night, reviewed at the head of this string by Chris Morley. I have also performed this particular Bruckner symphony many times.

        I was quite impressed by the conductor, but I am of a much older generation than him, and I felt that, although this was a well played performance, given Bruckner’s background in church (cathedral even) music and acoustics, the music last night was not given enough space to resonate as I believe Bruckner envisaged. What I would term a ‘young conductor’s’ performance.

        As ever though, the music ‘won’.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Mirga is widely thought of as one of the leading young conductors in Europe, regardless of gender. She is likely to get a top position in around 10 years. While being female may have slightly accelerated her career up to now (although females generally suffer in their career when they start a family, so it isn’t clear), she is one of the most deserving of the new generation. Lets see where she stands in 20 years time.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    ===morse-code opening

    A clever way of describing Bruckner VI !

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Omer Meir Wellber gets the rave review. Mirga gets the headline.

    • Bruce says:


      Everyone knows, for instance, that Bernstein’s career-launching debut with the NY Phil was as a sub for Bruno Walter.

  • ChicagoViolin says:

    Just heard the dreadful news that Mirga has the virus 🙁

    I wish her and the Birmingham Symphony good health.