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
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London