CBSO/Andris and Kristine in Concert; REVIEWS.
Birmingham Town Hall FORGET quantity, it's quality that matters - and this well-packed programme had it in spades. As 10pm approached those forced to leave early must have done so with great reluctance.
It was one of those occasions when everything seemed to gel. Andris Nelsons brought to Dvorak's Symphony No.8 clarity, dynamic shading and a command of instrumental textures that resulted in a deliciously fluent, cogently shaped reading.
Orchestrally it was hard to beat, from the finely controlled string playing (especially in some teasingly quiet pianissimos), woodwind solos as pellucid as mountain air (no surprise that Nelsons just stood back to let flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic have her moment in the Scherzo trio), to the glowingly well-tempered brass.
The shorter works also displayed Nelsons' ear for detail, notably in a highly dramatic 'Force of Destiny' Overture of Verdi, and an extremely well played 'Emperor Waltz' by Strauss that made you want to listen, rather than wonder how many more sections were to come.
However, the star of the second half was soprano Kristine Opolais, who sang the Willow Song and Ave Maria from Verdi's 'Otello' with a melting poignancy and exquisitely floated top notes that brought tears to the eyes. Her performance of the Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin' was even more impressive, its vocal demands and shifts of mood stunningly accomplished, and the varying levels of emotional delirium perfectly judged.
Although not stated the concert was a dry run for the CBSO's BBC Proms appearance two days later. But we got it first - and heard more.