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CBSO review: Warwick Arts Centre


City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Warwick Arts Centre, 6 March.

While the Butterworth Hall has borne witness to many a Brahms symphony and many a Tchaikovsky piano concert, rarely has it heard a music written by a female Lithuanian composer, performed under the baton of a female Lithuanian conductor.

With the first piece of the evening, Raminta Šerkšnytė's soul-searching De Profundis (From the Depths), (1989), the strings of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra were spine-tingling with their relentless, wind-like, sighing motifs, their call-and-response and long-echoing pauses, all shaped so beautifully and precisely by their now-legendary Musical Director, the ever-mesmerising Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (pictured above).

Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor formed a great contrast to the first piece, with the vibrant, powerful, hugely-expressive playing of the inspirational Venezuelan pianist, Gabriela Montera, a rarity among classical pianists, blessed as she is with the extraordinary gift of being able to improvise on any tune in any style at the drop of a hat.

Following a prompt from a member of the audience, Montera thrilled the Butterworth Hall with a never-to-be-repeated two-part improvisation on the theme of The Blue Danube Waltz; it was rhapsodic, flowing, and richly-textured; it was syncopated and bluesy and full of ragtime verve

While Montera's improvisation was undoubtedly the unexpected highlight of the evening, Brahms Symphony No. 3 in F major with its ever-expanding tunes, its big washes of sound and deep rumbling bass lines provided an emphatic end to a wonderfully-varied and uplifting evening.

Winner!