Kazuki Yamada, CBSO Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony, Symphony Hall Birmingham, 04 May 2022, 4**** David Gray & Paul Gray

Sergei Prokofiev – Classical Symphony, Opus 25                                                                                                                    Max Bruch – Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Opus 26                                                                                                      Felix Mendelssohn – Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Opus 56 (Scottish)

From its punchy opening through to its scintillating finale, the CBSO, under the baton of its soon to be Chief Conductor, Kazuki Yamada, delivered a crisp and energetic performance of Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony Opus 25.  The ensemble was tight and precise, allowing detail and colour to shine through.  The inner movements were managed with elegant wit.  Yamada literally danced on the podium during the headlong dash of the final movement; this charismatic conductor’s clear enjoyment of the work was totally infectious, to orchestra and audience alike.

Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 followed, presenting us with a more sombre contrast to the concert’s ebullient first item.  Soloist, Daishin Kashimoto played his Guarneri del Gesu 1744 ‘de Beriot’ violin with an intense, richly burnished tone, muscular phrasing and technical precision to give us a measured and thoughtful reading of the concerto.

For some, Kashimoto’s take on the opening Allegro Moderato may have been a little introspective, but he communicated a deep and rich understanding of the work.   The Adagio was particularly ravishing.  This opens with a seemingly endless melody that reinvents itself organically from phrase to phrase.  Kashimoto and Yamada paced and controlled this beautifully, creating a sense of continuous growth, and culminating in a rapturous, soaring climax.  An exhilarating rendition of the final Allegro Energico had Yamada bopping on the podium again.

In his ‘Scottish’ Symphony Mendelssohn resists the temptation to bombard us with faux Hibernian folkery.  Instead he gives us something more akin to a tone poem in symphonic form evoking a tempestuous history, and a rugged and untamable landscape.  The distinctly rich tones of the CBSO Strings created a mood of brooding menace in the opening movement.   Clarinetist, Oliver Janes shone in the Vivace non Troppo second movement.   The finale was well shaped, building to a rousing brass-lead hymn-like conclusion. There were just a few moments at points of full-orchestra/full-section downbeat, where the desired effect of complete unanimity among the players/sections was a little scrappy. No doubt Maestro Yamada will sort things like this out when he fully takes the helm as Chief Conductor.

Between the Prokofiev and the Bruch, Maestro Yamada took to the microphone to thank the audience for being so warm in its reception and to tell us how much he was looking forward to spending more time in Birmingham. A Symphony Hall audience responds with warmth to warmth given, and future audiences are, we think, similarly excited by the prospect of this forthcoming tenure.

Kazuki Yamada – Conductor                                                                                                                                                  Daishin Kashimoto – Violin                                                                                                                                                          City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

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