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The world-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra gave a masterclass in musical performance and skill when they were joined by guest soloist Nicola Benedetti to perform music by Tchaikovsky and Berlioz.
Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique clocks in at 59 minutes and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is 34 minutes, but the large ensemble filled the two compositions with colourful changes in timbre, mood and playfulness.
From the opening moments of the Violin Concerto in D Op.35, the former BBC Young Musician of the Year Benedetti had the music and the orchestra under control, with some fine conducting from Klaus Makela.
The piece was marked by changes in tone throughout with a number of short solo violin cadenza, while the climatic fourth movement takes influences from gypsy violinist and Russian music, with some lively backing from the brass and woodwind sections.
This was not music for the shy or retiring, requiring colourful, characterful playing from all of the musicians – and the grand surroundings of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall gave full acoustic power to all of the players.
Although Benedetti is a big draw, the full talent of the CBSO was allowed off the leash during Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, an opium-derived fever dream given full musical vision.
From the stirring opening through to the fleet fingered duo harp players during the second movement, the four man timpani and percussion section added colour and dynamic range throughout the hour long piece, with interjections from the strings and the brass section.
Six double basses and cellos, as well as violins and bells, all added to the sonic mix of this ground-breaking, monumental but always incredibly listenable piece.