New CBSO season gets off to a cracking start

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20 sept. 2010, 19h58m

I still remember some five years ago reading in The Times that the City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was reuniting with Sir Simon Rattle for the epic Symphony No 8 by Gustav Mahler. As a sucker for the huge romantic symphonies, I was pretty gutted to have missed it.

But when I saw that, as part of their Mahler cycle celebrating his 150th birthday, the CBSO was opening their season with the Symphony of a Thousand, what else could I do but get right on the internet and book my tickets?!

And so, on Saturday night, I want along to Symphony Hall and heard Andris Nelsons conduct what must have been about 500 performers in Mahler's epic work.

I had thought that the beginning of Part One, "Veni, Creatur spiritus" was a tad on the tame side - I was expecting as bigger noise, given that the orchestra and choirs were taking up about a third of the auditotium. But the E flat opening was, with retrospect, perfectly levelled, allowing the performance to go up a couple of notches at the end of the first part. The soloists, especially the first two sopranos, were simply stunning.

One of my biggest fears was unfounded during the gap - unlike at the Proms this year, the Symohony Hall audience knows to keep quiet between movements.

Part 2 opened almost exactly oposite to how the first part ended - the delicate strings and cymbals giving the audience a rest, but keeping them on edge. Nelsons gradually built up the tension until he was daring the second violing to tremolo through their bows and the violas, celli and bases to pluck their strings from their instruments.

But all of that was just a prequel to the epic finale, where the choir seemed to double in size, the organ come into its own and various members of the brass section appeared on the upper tier right at the back of the hall. And so Nelsons began conducting in 360 degrees across all tiers of the Hall, with the prchestra and choirs producing some incredible noise. It was a stunning climax to a truly stunning Symphony, undoubtedly my greatest live music experience!

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