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A rewarding combination; CBSO Symphony Hall.

Near-contemporaries both of Slavic race, Janacek and Rachmaninov nevertheless had a very different approach to composition: the Czech earthy and uncompromising, the Russian patrician and traditionally-structured.

Yet the next few weeks see the CBSO under Mark Elder tearing their works in a mini-festival, and a rewarding combination they make. Last night's opening offering was a Janacek rarity, the compact tone-poem The Ballad of Blanik . With its jagged gesture s and rustic airiness the piece is typical Janacek; perhaps it is its awkward attempts at forcing a symphonic structure which have kept it out of the repertoire.

Equally typical in its composers' hall marks is the First Piano Concerto of the 18-year-old Rachmaninov, structurally, thematically and texturally anticipating so many of his subsequent masterpieces - and to any sneerers be it noted these ideas were forg ed before film-music was ever dreamt of.

Peter Donohoe, also a major protagonist in these events, reigned in his pianistic power sensitively here, not wishing to crush the latent delicacy of a work wistful at an age when the composer had no business knowing the meaning of regret. He and the orc hestra gave it with a sense of total belie the Chopinesque central movement a particular duel set in time.

From the other end of Rachmaninov's life we heard the Paganini Rhapsody, Donohoe despatching this masterpiece with witty gravity. Elder's CBSO was glorious in the famous 18th variation, and vivid in the often brutal spectacle of Janacek's Taras Bulba .

Chris Morley
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Author:Morley, Chris
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 8, 1998
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