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
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness