Magazine article Musical Opinion

Rattle Conducts Beethoven 9

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Rattle Conducts Beethoven 9

Article excerpt

There was a wonderful sense of celebration here in a totally packed Symphony Hall, Birmingham, to welcome back Sir Simon Rattle, the conductor who brought this world-class venue into existence, and who told us "It's a blast to be back, much love!".

The occasion on March 28 was a fundraising event to raise funds for the CBSO's artistic and educational outreach work in these times of austerity, Sir Simon's idea, with himself and soloists performing without fee. We were also celebrating the silver jubilee of the CBSO Youth and Children's Choruses, brainchild of Rattle himself and Simon Halsey, who is still at the helm of the CBSO Chorus family and who has worked hand-in-hand with Sir Simon both in Berlin and now at the London Symphony Orchestra.

Ula Weber conducted the CBSO Children's Chorus in movements from Jonathan Dove's Seasons and Charms, a work which, reinforced by James Keefe's bouncy piano accompaniments, evoked memories of the jazzy schools musical scores of the 1960s and 1970s. The children delivered the goods with gusto and amazingly clear diction, and the wit with which they revealed the punch-line of "Laura" remains unforgettable.

The CBSO Youth Chorus gave us Imogen Holst's Brittenesque Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow, harp-accompanied (Celine Saout), conducted by Julian Wilkins. Again, diction was amazingly clear, and there was a confident command of harmonies and compass of the vocal range.

Then came the parent group, the legendary CBSO Chorus itself, projecting the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony from memory with forceful immediacy ("Freude", "Bruder" and "Millionen" were hurled directly into our faces), and certainly the trump card in a movement which, despite the orchestra's wonderful playing, was disfigured by manipulated tempi and a bland, unbalanced quartet of solo vocalists. …

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