CBSO/Oramo, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

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The Independent Culture

Eyebrows were raised five years ago when Sakari Oramo was appointed Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on the strength of just two concerts. Since then Oramo has rewarded their faith in him, gradually building a repertoire quite distinct from his illustrious predecessor which embraces both mainstream and neglected works. The opening concert of the season found both orchestra and conductor in fine form and illustrated their close, continually developing relationship.

After a superbly controlled account of Wagner's Tannhäuser overture, by turns noble and sensual, a slimmed down CBSO was joined by Christian Tetzlaff for a beguiling performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto in A major K219. A dramatic pause before Tetzlaff's first solo entry with a beautifully sustained Adagio arioso seemingly floating in from another dimension, created a poetic start to a deft and charismatic reading. The soloist's own cadenzas were tasteful, well proportioned and infused with Mozartian elegance. Oramo and his players provided a keenly responsive accompaniment, obviously thriving on the intimacy of making chamber-sized music together. The exotic "Turkish" episodes in the Rondo Finale were launched with lip-smacking gusto, cello and double bass bows clattering joyously on to strings.

Oramo likes to have his cake and eat it in his interpretation of Bruckner. His majestic and long breathed account of the opening movement of the Third Symphony (in its 1889 version) glowed with the slow burning awe and transcendental deliberation encountered in monumental readings by Gunter Wand and Sergiu Celibidache. In contrast, his impetuous slow movement and nimble Finale suggested an affinity with Eugen Jochum's mercurial approach.

Somehow Oramo pulled off such an unlikely fusion of styles, the common denominator being a profound respect for the score. The very opening bars illustrated the conductor's scrupulous attention to detail – every contribution was audible, viola semi-quavers distinguishable from violin staccato quavers in contrast to the misty wash of sound which usually lathers the main trumpet theme's accompaniment.

Oramo relished the symphony's reflective asides as much as its grand statements, communicating a comprehensive structural mastery and an emotional empathy with Bruckner's vision. The countrified gait of the Trio was a highlight, radiating rude health. The orchestral playing was technically assured and eagerly receptive, distinctive solos never detracting from the large scale harmonically driven symphonic argument.

Oramo and the CBSO clearly enjoy making music together. There is no surface gloss, no excessive point making and an avoidance of playing to the gallery, as demonstrated in the satisfyingly cumulative effect of Bruckner's grand symphonic peroration. This is a musical partnership content to let the music speak for itself; the audience is the richer for it.

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