Kazuki Conducts Scheherazade, CBSO, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 3 May 2023, 4****, David Gray & Paul Gray

Brahms – Violin Concerto * Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade

This was an afternoon concert comprised of well-known and well-loved works that both, in their own way, have a starring the role for the violin.  In the first instance Daishin Kashimoto took the lead in Brahms’ Violin Concerto. 

It may have been Hans von Bülow who complained the this was a work not so much ‘for’ the violin as ‘against the violin’. Certainly Brahms unleashes the full force of the orchestra, and at times threatens to swamp the solo instrument.  During the first movement Kashimoto played with a sweet silvery tone but, at times, needed more force and presence to cut through the texture. However, during the cadenza Kashimoto’s elegant approach came into its own, with delicate, feathered fingering, and some wonderfully expressive phrasing.

Perhaps as a result of this, the movement as a whole felt tentative and failed to flow as well as it might, or to maybe develop the requisite drama. Now, this piece of Brahms is a highly passionate work, and it just felt like the solo part needed more overt passion. Also: there was sometimes a sense that blocks of orchestral colour just appeared from nowhere, rather than growing out of what had gone before.  Some of the horn passages were particularly strident and unintegrated, and one wondered if most of the orchestra’s rehearsal time had gone into the Rimsky-Korsakov in the second half of the concert.

The Adagio of the concerto was significantly more assured.  The woodwind created just the right atmosphere, and the oboe statement of the theme was played with timeless lyricism by Principal Oboe, Yurie Aramaki. Our violin soloist, Kashimoto, gave a glittering reading which sang out across the hall.  His lightness of touch also paid dividends in the final movement which skipped along with a joyful momentum.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade is very much the orchestral showpiece and the CBSO gave a thrilling, detailed performance which suggested this work had received the lion’s share of rehearsal time.  Virtually all the principal players get a chance to shine, and virtually all of them seized the chance with aplomb. 

Sadly, and as usual, there was some unacceptable cracking & poor tone from the Principal Horn, Elspeth Dutch. Sadly, this dogs so very many peformances by the CBSO – and she did get some boos when she took her bow – and not for the first time. Elspeth is a very long-standing and much-loved member of the CBSO community, and she is a recipient of the CBSO Long Service Award, but the the cracking and poor tone has simply got to be dealt with.

In Scheherazade the solo violin takes the spotlight most often and, Prinicpal Violinist Eugene Tzikindelean was as sensational as ever, and while never less than compellingly lyrical, Eugene played with passion and steel, and this kind of passion wouldn’t have gone amiss in the opening movement of the Brahms.

Kazuki Yamada conducted with a feel for the drama and a flair for storytelling which enabled him to craft a convincing narrative arc.  Yamada delivered a very well-blended reading that flowed effortlessly and swept the listener along. Stirring stuff!

Conductor – Kazuki Yamada * Violin –  Daishin Kashimoto * City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO)

David Gray & Paul Gray are Reviewers for Birmingham, West Midlands and (often) the Three Choirs Festival. If you would like David & Paul to come review for you, drop us a line at p.gray.20@abdn.ac.uk

ReviewsGate Copyright Protection