Familiarity with Shostakovich's idiom and mindset has brought the orchestra a sense of fluency and an insightful irony, both qualities eminently suited to the works on offer.
The rarely-heard Limpid Stream Suite (from a ballet which somehow enraged Stalinist apparatchiks) actually showed there was a lingua franca amongst composers reluctantly toeing the Soviet party line; I was continually reminded of the Khachaturian of Masquerade, Gayaneh and Spartacus. Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla conducted a persuasive account, and Eduardo Vassallo's extended cello solo was a masterpiece of Tchaikovsky-directed irony.
That word again, and there's irony aplenty in the First Piano Concerto, nifty and cheeky. Anna Vinnitskaya was the soloist, bringing mock-seriousness but also a blistering command of the keyboard, and Jonathan Holland was her brilliant collaborator, often tongue-in-cheek (though that's difficult for a trumpeter), but also noble in a Charlie Chaplin-esque way.
We hear Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony far too often nowadays. It has become easy listening, though its premiere must have had its composer fraught with Stalin-appeasing nerves. But this account under Mirga was sweeping, structurally convincing, finding moments of lyricism amidst all the sardonic flimflam - and Jonathan Holland was now humbly back among the orchestral trumpets!
The solo violin passages were well-taken, but isn't it about time the CBSO appointed a permanent concertmaster? It's over three years since the much-loved Laurence Jackson left for a new life in Australia, and the orchestra somehow let his equally-loved desk-partner Zoe Beyers take other paths.
Christopher Morley ANDREW TYSON Codsall Community High School ????? HHHHI Goodness, the folk at Codsall Community Arts do bring some remarkable pianists to this South Staffordshire village, from those at the start of their career, like Benjamin Grosvenor, to well-established names (Stephen Hough and Angela Hewitt immediately spring to mind).
This year's find was Andrew Tyson, a young American who has risen to prominence since winning major international competitions and is certainly one to watch.
More importantly he's one to hear, with a seemingly effortless technique - to judge from his absence of keyboard histrionics - that gives his playing a clarity (amazingly so in fast passages) and nuanced sensitivity. Even a few barely noticeable finger-slips hardly mattered when everything else was so perfectly formed.
But it was a pity Tyson didn't choose a more interpretively challenging programme. His account of Chopin's Sonata No. 3 was almost as pithy as the Scarlatti and Spanish miniatures that came before it, with no lingering tempi and a focus on tonal colour which, although impressive in itself, seemed to overlook the romantic heart of the work.
Conversely, his four Scarlatti sonatas were dressed in full 19th century rig (Tyson told us in the pre-concert talk how he much admires pianists of the past), with varied repeats, generous rubatos, exaggerated pauses and extra flourishes at cadences used to almost audacious effect.
And his Spanish collection - Granados' Valses Poeticos, each so short you hardly have time to take them in, and three more substantial ones by Albeniz - had all the charm, glitter and swirl of village dances, songs and guitars.
Three little pieces by Federico Mompou, as concentrated and beautifully formed as china figurines, provided the subtlest delights of the evening. Tyson should really make a CD of this rarely heard master of gentle minimalism; it's far more elegant and less banal than some we often hear.