Cbso/Oramo | Symphony Hall, Birmingham

It seems appropriate that, a year into his music directorship of Birmingham's flagship orchestra, Sakari Oramo should have his word on Sibelius. Other Finns - Salonen, Saraste and, most recently, Osmo Vanska with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra - have had their say on Tapiola, Tuonela and the symphonies. Others, too, have made their input - notably Tortelier and Rattle, who made Sibelius one of his calling cards with the CBSO.

Oramo has already shown he is not afraid of big-boned Sibelius: in Kullervo last season he made an acoustic marvel out of a rather leviathan late-romantic score. Yet the thrill of hearing the CBSO's Sibelius Second Symphony at the opening of Oramo's new Prokofiev-Sibelius series was the clarity with which Oramo redefined some of the "big" moments and the absence of bombast or sloppy sentiment.

Oramo doesn't wallow in his Sibelius, as we sometimes love to. More than once the clean lines sounded like straight Beethoven; better still, it seemed utterly right. If Sibelius's symphonies tend to divide down the middle, with weighty Sargent-like readings of 1, 2 and 5 contrasted with the terse, almost secretive compaction of 4, 6 and 7 (and with 3 having a foot in both camps), Oramo's beautifully shaped reading of No 2 bridged this gap.

He opted not to dwell, either languidly or ominously, on the long span of the pizzicato opening to the Andante, but moved it on; yet it lost none of its emotional impact. The string playing (especially, as so often with the CBSO, the lower strings) hit another high.

Oramo is also intelligently showcasing four of his more recent compatriots amid the Prokofiev-Sibelius cycle. In the opening event it was Kaija Saariaho's large orchestra piece Du Crystal, while in Wednesday's second concert it was the turn of Joonas Kokkonen (1921-96).

Kokkonen's powerful, varied interludes from the First Act, and their importance to the work's symphonic argument and dramatic impact, put it in the category of the three Ps - Parsifal, Pelleas and Palestrina. The invaluable CBSO programme notes on the composer's symphonic career were by another composer and opera writer, Jouni Kaipanen, whose Sisyphus Dreams - an intermezzo, as it were, composed amid a series of rather prodigious larger works - features in Oramo's third concert. The final Finnish work will be Rautavaara's part-carefree, part mysteriously evocative Isle of Bliss.

If the Rautavaara ends with an evocation of rosy-fingered dawn, Saariaho's Du Crystal culminates with the dawn of a new piece: the evocative solo cello trill played by Ulrich Heinen. It forms the opening of its sister piece, ...a la fumée. Saariaho's piece is a great structured soundwash. She gladly welcomes the influence of Ligeti and Tristan Murail, and in his lucid short introduction Oramo himself characterised Du Crystal as "like light in crystal". Unfortunately, despite splendid sectional business, the overall effect struck me as oddly opaque. Here and there, there was a luminous moment such as the patter of three cavorting piccolos and the subtle, alluring penetration of the lower textures by contra bassoon (Margaret Cookhorn). But otherwise, Saariaho's self-admittedly "synthesiser-like" sound seemed to oscillate between the vastness of landscape and the merely big.

Not so Prokofiev's scintillating violin concertos, composed 20 years apart, at either end of the composer's sojourn abroad. Yet this was no occasion for showing off: Vadim Repin kept things reined in even in the wonderful cantilena to No 2, heralded by string pizzicato and the pecking clarinets of Colin Parr and Mark Simmons. Taking his cue from Oramo, Repin played his Prokofiev like Mozart, and without superfluous sweetness. It felt like like calm after a rather rocky Baltic crossing.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence