CBSO/Grazinyte-Tyla review – precision and power unite for symphonic storm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla commanded orchestra and audience alike in a programme that spanned work by Mahler, Hadyn and her own Lithuanian compatriots

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is only at the beginning of her tenure as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s new music director, but there is already evidence – following the major acclaim of her August concerts at Symphony Hall and the Proms – of a formidable relationship forged with orchestra and audience alike. Gražinytė-Tyla’s combination of precision, poise and power is remarkable and the occasional frissons of electrical charge in this performance said it all.

Symphonies by Haydn, father of the form, and Mahler, whose works are its apotheosis, were prefaced with a tone poem by Gražinytė-Tyla’s Lithuanian compatriot Raminta Šerkšnytė, with aural connections made to add a subtle dimension to the experience. The opening of Šerkšnytė’s Ugnys (Fires) – marked misterioso and evoking a stark, almost primeval landscape – was in itself arresting, and it resonated in retrospect when Gražinytė-Tyla mirrored this still, slightly chill aura in the introduction to Mahler’s First Symphony. The elemental quality of Šerkšnytė’s music and its fiery explosiveness made its own mark, but its affinities with Mahler’s instrumentation and his expressive intentions were all the more noteworthy.

Tiny rhythmic sforzato explosions had coloured the disciplined approach to Haydn’s early symphony Le Matin, with the concertante solos of CBSO woodwind and string principals, serving to spread the happiness. Gražinytė-Tyla is an irresistible focus of attention, her instinct for a singing lyricism matched by her graceful but strong physicality when pointing up an underlying dance pulse; however, it is the way this presence translates to the music that is so dynamic. Her command of the Mahler was totally assured, sweeping gestures embodying the symphony’s massive span, with the extremes of pianissimo and blazing brass – the horn section splendid – realising both serenity and the final exhilaration. The calming string encore by another Lithuanian, Juozas Naujalis, was perhaps this conductor’s similarly instinctive caution against hyperbole.

Contributor

Rian Evans

The GuardianTramp

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