CBSO/Schiff, Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Monday 31 October 2005
Buried inside this concert was a nugget: Eisler's Kleine Sinfonie (or "Little Symphony"). Sharp-witted, pithy, ironic, it fuses nasty militaristic marches with masterly concision.
Every bar of this chamber symphony is memorable, from the lugubrious low trumpet and sombre strings of the opening, through compact variations embracing a sneery march theme, to ironically breezy clarinet and solo flute.
There's a brilliantly squashed scherzo, with scowling brass offset by rippling percussion, plus duetting from clarinet and trumpet, wiped out by a querying mock-cadence. A jazzy slow movement features sinuous muted trumpets whose wah-wah patterns are eerily sinister. And when the flute breaks loose again it's like a cruel lullaby before the movement evaporates.
This is a ghostly work and the woodwind, brass and strings perfectly caught Eisler's mock-gaiety and nastiness to perfection.
The cellist Heinrich Schiff was the conductor; his teacher, Hans Swarowsky, an undersung hero of mid-20th-century music, might have approved. But other parts of this concert may have left him less impressed.
At the launch of Haydn's Cello Concerto no.2 in D all boded well: short-bowed CBSO strings achieved an ideal chamber orchestra sound. But Schiff drove the orchestra clumsily, and his own playing - sliding messily across strings, frenetically decorating, grabbing at arpeggios - was pleasant only when he calmed down.
The more sedate passages are where he scored - some attractive pairing with violins, firm double-stopping and a couple of stylish, brief cadenzas. Otherwise, I'd rather have one of the CBSO cellists in this beautiful work, rounded off with its cheery 6/8 finale.
Music, and musicians, have got to breathe, and share, or they slip into autopilot. As for Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, let's just say it was mainly - er - fast.
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Apple has installed security backdoors on 600m iPhones and iPads, claims security researcher
- 2 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 3 Louis van Gaal gets tough with Manchester United players, with Darren Fletcher and Luke Shaw berated in public and Phil Jones left looking bemused
- 4 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 5 Peaches Geldof inquest: Tragic final moments of socialite's life reveal she lied to husband about failed heroin tests
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?
Fight Club 2: Chuck Palahniuk sequel is a 'meta-fictional comment on the cultural response to the original'
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?
Star Wars 7: Plot details 'leak', with sequel's opening sequence and premise revealed
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains