When things go really well – as is usually the case with the made-in-heaven relationship between Andris Nelsons and the CBSO – they do so in spectacular fashion. It happened like that on Saturday.
The concert began with Dvorak’s dramatic overture Othello, a magically poised account, sculptured by Nelsons with ravishing tone and an almost painterly approach to colour, texture and subtle dynamic gradations.
Nelsons showed just as much awareness of inner detail in Bartok’s Viola Concerto to provide a wonderfully colourful orchestral backdrop for Adam Römer. CBSO regulars of course know Römer as viola section leader; here he amazed everyone – as several of his colleagues often do – by emerging as a terrific soloist.
His shaping of the opening Moderato, full-bodied tonally yet with an air of soulful questing, was perfectly judged, and in the luminescent Adagio religioso reached a plateau of almost salving calm. The folk-dance finale, where ideas dart all over the place, was less convincing musically but thrown off with considerable alacrity – and like many of Bartok’s fast movements culminated in an exciting whirlwind of sound.
Shostakovich’s Symphony No.10 (first heard on Thursday) went beyond exciting to become a stunning, overwhelming experience. Apart from the quality of the playing – awesomely sonorous and peppered with brilliant solos (a frequent Shostakovich metaphor for the conflict between individual and state) – Nelsons showed complete understanding of the work’s emotional agenda.
Often intense and disturbing, especially in the long opening Moderato (which Nelson took nearly 25 minutes to unfold) and coruscating militaristic second movement, it was all so powerfully shaped, paced and thrillingly executed that, when the finale’s moment of triumph eventually came, we felt both drained and gloriously uplifted.