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Review: CBSO make time to delight; Innovation Chamber Ensemble CBSO Centre CBSO Symphony Hall.

Byline: Christopher Morley

Can any orchestra be working harder than the CBSO? Little over a week ago they toured three European countries in as many days; then came a magnificent Prom appearance; currently some of the players are moonlighting at the Berlin Festival with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; and the day after tomorrow they all embark upon a marathon trip to Japan and Taiwan.

Yet last Friday afternoon they managed to squeeze in a concert on home ground which defies description in anything but superlatives.

Schoenberg's wonderful Werklarte Nacht found the huge string section playing with all the febrile intensity of a solo sextet, Sakari Oramo balancing textures so adroitly. Dark colours dug deeply into the strings, bowing was seamless in vaulted arching phrases, and principals delivered their solos with a touching absence of ego.

Wind and percussion joined their string colleagues for a bracing, revelatory account of Sibelius' Symphony no.2.

Oramo's manipulation of tempo set a context of lilting swiftness against which more measured episodes made maximum effect - the splendid peroration was only the final, crowning example of this perceptive shaping.

From such magnificent orchestral playing we must single out the horn section for special praise - noble, incisive and so richly confident in tone-colour.

But really this remained an exhilarating team-performance, playing under a conductor who brought so many unsuspected insights into this well-worn score.

Paradoxically, it was the absence of a conductor which gave added value to Saturday's inaugural concert from the Innovation Chamber Ensemble, the latest spinoff group born into the CBSO extendedfamily. Elgar's Serenade for Strings, unencumbered by the emotion any carver cannot but help heap upon it, regained its elusive fragility in a reading where artistic direction came from the section leaders themselves.

ICE conveyed a sound richer and fuller than one might have expected from just 16 players, with works by Mozart, Barber and Boccherini.

We also enjoyed the UK premiere of Robert Farnon's poignant little Song of Scandia. Richard Jenkinson was the musicianly cello soloist, as he was in the world premiere of Paul da Vinci's Hope Concerto.

CAPTION(S):

Members of the Innovation Chamber Ensemble, the latest CBSO spin-off group
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 16, 2002
Words:360
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