CBSO/Gražinytė-Tyla review – massed forces rise to a monumental Mahler

Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Mid-way through a Mahler symphony cycle, the conductor brought tremendous energy to his Eighth, with the female soloists, particularly, glorious

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is taking it steadily, but she is already almost halfway through a Mahler cycle with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Unlike some conductors, who postpone the Eighth Symphony until the end of the cycle, Gražinytė-Tyla tackled the monumental score as her fourth Mahler project at Symphony Hall, with the CBSO, its Chorus, Youth Chorus, Children’s Choir and eight soloists, reinforced with the University of Birmingham Voices and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. It may not have been the “symphony of a thousand” that the Eighth was labelled as at its first performance, but some 500 performers were crammed on to the stage, spilling around the sides of the auditorium.

With such forces the performance could hardly fail to be a stirring, grand occasion. Gražinytė-Tyla launched into the first part, the huge Veni Creator Spiritus hymn, with tremendous energy, giving a spiky, almost shrill edge to its orchestral interludes, and favouring aural impact over long, beautiful vocal lines. The second part, setting the final scene of Goethe’s Faust, presents very different challenges, and its hour-long arc was not always convincingly sustained – more the work’s fault, you suspect, than the conductor’s.

The best moments, though were glorious – the two mezzos Karen Cargill and Alice Coote quietly eloquent as Mulier Samaritana and Maria Aegyptica respectively, soprano Natalya Romaniw as a touching Penitent, and the other soprano, Erin Wall, soaring over the final Chorus Mysticus. The three male soloists – tenor AJ Glueckert, baritone Roland Wood and bass Morris Robinson – were less striking, though perhaps have fewer opportunities. As a whole, though, it was impossible not to be impressed.

Contributor

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
CBSO/Gražinytė-Tyla review – excitement and grandeur for epic Mahler
Although occasionally the focus became blurred, the CBSO were superb and vocally this was an immaculate performance

Andrew Clements

18, Jun, 2019 @3:34 PM

Article image
CBSO/Gražinytė-Tyla/Kremer review – keening emotions and vivid humanity
A weekend dedicated to the composer Mieczysław Weinberg featured the first British performance of his anguished 21st Symphony, dedicated to victims of the Warsaw ghetto

Andrew Clements

25, Nov, 2018 @12:14 PM

Article image
CBSO/Gražinytė-Tyla review – ambitious tone poems and kinetic art
This refined outing of painter/composer Čiurlionis came complete with Norman Perryman’s live paintings

Andrew Clements

17, Feb, 2019 @12:20 PM

Article image
CBSO/Gražinytė-Tyla review – Unsuk Chin's showpiece Spira is full of flair
Two new works (Unsuk Chin and Taylor-West) had fluency and flair, and two Beethoven symphonies were both light and lucid under Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

Andrew Clements

31, Jan, 2020 @2:41 PM

Article image
CBSO/Gražinytė-Tyla review – trio of trebles bring wide-eyed wonder to Mahler
Three boy singers added a new perspective to Mahler’s Fourth, in a programme that also featured two marvellously refined Sibelius miniatures

Andrew Clements

28, Sep, 2017 @5:07 PM

Article image
CBSO/Gražinytė-Tyla review – Adès’ ghostly Buñuel showpiece sees the light
A centenary celebration – coming to the Proms tonight – included an Ades premiere and, 75 years after its composition, Ruth Gipps’s second symphony

Andrew Clements

05, Aug, 2021 @2:48 PM

Article image
Prom 50: CBSO/Gražinytė-Tyla review – fierce solos and jagged riffs, superbly played
An unconventional programme of Beethoven and Stravinsky alongside a fresh, discomfiting work from Gerald Barry proves thrillingly dramatic

Andrew Clements

23, Aug, 2017 @2:19 PM

Article image
City of Birmingham SO/Gražinytė-Tyla review – spellbinding, bewitching
Precise yet expressive playing in this remarkable concert climaxed in an astonishing song cycle by Hans Abrahamsen

Andrew Clements

28, Aug, 2016 @12:12 PM

Article image
CBSO/Gražinytė-Tyla review – well-intentioned grandiloquence, and little else
Banally literal and blandly unmemorable, the choral and orchestral writing fails this bespoke celebration of Poland’s centenary of independence

Andrew Clements

22, Nov, 2018 @5:00 PM

Article image
CBSO appoints 29-year-old Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla as music director
The Lithuanian woman who succeeds Andris Nelsons in Birmingham wins acclaim for energy and ‘rare talent’

Imogen Tilden

04, Feb, 2016 @10:00 AM