A real treat - Martha's favourite concerto and one of my favourite symphonies and at our favourite concert hall the same night. Wonderful playing from the CBSO under the baton of Xian Zhang.The concert started with Ravel's Mother Goose Suite, which I'd not heard before, but is gentle and beautiful.Michael Collins was the soloist in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. The music just emerged as if he was thinking it into existence, not having to coax it from a single-reed wind instrument, with interesting register issues. Seriously impressive, and no wonder his recent recording of this has been winning awards.

And then after an interval, the orchestra doubled in size and the organ added in order to tackle Saint-Saens' great 3rd Symphony. I was hoping for a little more volume and passion in places, but the speed was just right, and the orchestra wonderfully clear and precise. I heard lots of tones and ideas that I'd not heard before, and I realised just how many great ideas Saint-Saens brought to it, particularly interesting rhythmical differences between different instruments. No wonder that he was reported to say about it "I have given all that I had to give. What I have done I shall never do again." Which he didn't. Fantastic.Xian has made the "improbably journey from a small town in China to the New York Philharmonic" [NYT] and then on guest engagements with lots of other orchestras. She didn't draw much attention to herself whilst conducting, or in the various entrances/exits in the applause at the end, but she certainly drew some great playing from the CBSO. Difficult to know how much this is down to her, as they are a fine group, but I'd certainly be keen to watch her at work again. Shame we missed "Maestro" where she was apparently one of the tutors.

AuthorJonathan Clark