The enthusiasm of the CBSO‘s Principal Guest Conductor, and Chief Conductor and Artist Advisor-elect, Kazuki Yamada, is infectious, and no more was this evident than in today’s programme of which Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony was the centrepiece. The audience love him, the players respect him, and if the concert was a party, he’d be the life and soul of it.
The orchestra was pared down as befitted the programme, the absence of percussion other than timpani, especially noticeable. The afternoon’s concert opened with Prokofiev’s dainty Symphony No. 1 (Classical), the orchestra stoically playing on despite a commotion in the audience at the back of the hall just a few minutes in. Prokofiev’s writing in this work is particularly effective in showcasing each section of the orchestra, whilst retaining the feel of the whole. Yamada was always in command, but the playing was committed, always with a sense of humour, whether Prokofiev really intended that or not. Short for a symphony, it seemed to be over before it started, but the audience loved it.
Next up was Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, always a favourite with audiences and players alike. I have to confess, it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard it in Symphony Hall, but each performance speaks differently. The soloist, Daishin Kashimoto, enjoyed every minute of it too, his playing always part of the orchestra as a whole. The work opens with a prelude, the violin ‘chatting’ convivially with the orchestra. Soloist, conductor and orchestra were always together, supporting each other, and there was never a feeling that this was only about the solo violin.
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The middle, and slow movement of the Bruch, is perhaps, the best-known, and the warmth of the sound shone through. I always worry that it might not be possible to hear to the soloist clearly, but this was never a competition. The solo violin was always audible, the full orchestra, led by their conductor, rising and falling sympathetically as required by the music.
The finale of the Bruch is always a crowd-pleaser, and the crowd in Symphony Hall (which was very respectably filled on all levels for a Wednesday afternoon) were not disappointed. The conductor and soloist worked in harmony, the orchestra fully behind them. There were just one or two moments where I longed for an even greater fortissimo from the orchestra, but the work ended stylishly, the audience warmly demanding several ‘curtain calls’ from the soloist and conductor.
The centrepiece of the afternoon’s programme was Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (Scottish Symphony). I have to confess, it’s not one I’ve heard live before, and the opening movement isn’t quite as well known as the remainder. I was a bit worried, but we got going after a while! The orchestra played with real panache, but once again, one couldn’t help but be carried along by the infectious enthusiasm of their conductor. He danced his way through the work, not to showcase himself, but to the benefit of the music itself. The audience went wild at the end, and justifiably so.
Some might say it was a ‘tame’ programme, but no one minded. The works were well-matched, and the audience went away, hearts filled with music. With Kazuki Yamada soon to be the CBSO‘s Chief Conductor, there are exciting times ahead. Judging by the audience’s reaction yesterday, he’s already found a fond place in the heart of Birmingham’s music-loving public.
MENDELSSOHN’S SCOTTISH SYMPHONY
Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Wednesday 4th May, 2022, 2pm
Daishin Kashimoto violin
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO)
Kazuki Yamada conductor