Sibelius’ Second

Thursday 16 June, 2.15pm

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Programme

  • Beethoven  Egmont Overture , 8′
  • Elgar  Cello Concerto, 30′
  • Sibelius  Symphony No. 2, 44′

A cello cries out in sorrow, the woodwinds sigh, and, like mist on an autumn river, a quiet melody drifts into the evening sky. Elgar’s Cello Concerto is one of those pieces that touches everyone’s soul, and the wonderful Pieter Wispelwey will wring out every drop of poetry, in a concert that begins with Beethoven’s heroic Egmont overture and ends with Sibelius’s sweeping symphonic portrait of a nation awakening to freedom.

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Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…        “Pieter Wispelwey’s interpretation seemed relatively laid-back in relation to these underlying intense feelings but it was a pleasure to listen to, as well as to see him interacting with the orchestra. There was good rapport and a strong sense of dialogue and empathy, with soloist frequently smiling at the leader and conductor, and dance-like head movements while listening to orchestral passages. The warmth and depth of tone he conjured from his instrument were a delight, whether in the strong, resonant chords that frame the whole piece or in phrases that demanded a lightness of touch.

The middle section of the first movement has the solo instrument singing above full strings with a heart-tugging lyrical swaying that brought to mind an undulating climb in the Malvern Hills. The second scherzo movement was dramatic and captivating, Wispelwey demonstrating virtuosic speed, followed by lovely arcing phrases and careful placing of notes in the plaintive Adagio. The finale gave scope for flashes and flourishes of drama from the whole orchestra, with an almost combative feel between them and the soloist, before once again altering pace, the mournful closing chords handled with finesse and eliciting an enthusiastic audience response.

The second half gave us the sunny side of Sibelius, with his Symphony no. 2 in D major, Op.43. It has something of a southern feeling, an atmosphere of warmth, since it was inspired and partly written during a visit to Italy. The lilting melody in the first movement on poised, singing violins transitions to attention-grabbing pizzicato then luxuriates once more in legato playing. Interjections from woodwind, as it were passing the baton between sections, provided a fine example of the visual building of texture, once again underlining the value of witnessing live music. A Don Juan-inspired theme in the second movement introduced a sense of menace, with pizzicato lower strings and skilfully handled timpani in the background, almost imperceptible at first then growing.

The third movement’s multiple moods elicited nuggets of tempo change and well handled pauses. The triumphant ending, by contrast, was a master class in sustained speed – an astonishing feat of sheer physicality on the part of the strings. It made one’s arms ache just to watch them!”

 

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