A conductor's life on the ocean wave

Classical; SEA MUSIC: CBSO/LSO SYMPHONY HALL BIRMINGHAM

A CONCERT of sea-music, without La Mer? Very possible, says the conductor Sakari Orano, whose forays into the English repertoire are winning him new friends in Birmingham - where the Finn stepped into Simon Rattle's shoes earlier this autumn.

Last month Orano was making waves with Bax's Tintagel; Elgar and Frank Bridge have just followed. It's surely just a matter of time before Bantock (another Birmingham leading light), Holbrooke and Rutland Boughton (Bax's most avid fellow-Arthurian) follow.

True, there was some paddling in Orano's watery soiree. The strings seemed oddly at sea at the launch of Mendelssohn's Hebrides overture; waves that should lap eddied, and at times the balance muddied. Yet the CBSO woodwind showed off the orchestra consistently at its best; clarinets and paired flutes, surfing above soupy strings, or scudding like fireflies amid the textures, brought a metronome precision. The woodwind chorus in "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage" was a marvel, just as the CBSO brass dazzled in the descending flurries of Britten's Four Sea Interludes, nicely approached by Orano, whose gambled slow pacing of No 3 ("Moonlight") overtly paid off.

The CBSO strings struck out with more elan in the forcible tutti, and in some exposed passages; fine breast-stroke from the double basses and forward-placed cellos, and an exquisite upsurging passage for violas in the opening to Bridge's The Sea, a massive, four-movement tone poem, akin as much to Scriabin as to Debussy; a gripping, tautly argued masterpiece from that fertile era just before the First World War. A superb CBSO team effort, well worth EMI recording. The mezzo-soprano Fredrika Brillembourg brought a heroic textual memory to Elgar's Sea Pictures, and a charming, if slightly didactic, delivery - albeit shorn of the subtle rubati that can make even limp Victoriana bloom. Aquaceous Elgar cries out for more bosom.

Earlier in the week, amazingly, Symphony Hall had its first taste of Sir Colin Davis. Elgar again was the fare, and the effect was electric. With the opening bars the LSO's meticulously short-bowed string precision gave Dresden, Berlin and Chicago all a run for their money. The scherzo from Mendelssohn's Octet emerged exactly as marked - leggierissimo - and even though 60 strings were beavering away, it still sounded like chamber music.

The LSO's Leningrad-born leader, Alexander Barantschik, and superbly empathic principal cello, Tim Hugh, were the soloists in Brahms's late- flowering Double Concerto. Chalk and cheese, the one sweet and succulent, the other earnest and responsive, an apt dialogue, if you go with the story that the two instruments ape the recently reconciled Brahms and Joachim.

And Elgar's First Symphony had the audience on the edge of its seats. Davis's way of playing the long waiting-game - his handling of organic growth, his slow ratcheting up of dynamic beat - ranks in a class of its own. The wisdom of old age, you might say - except that three decades ago the young Davis could do just that. He thrilled then, and he still does now.

Roderic Dunnett

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on