The Birmingham Post isn’t always able to post online everything that I’ve written for its print edition, so – after a suitable time lag (you should really go out and buy the paper!) – I’ll be posting my recent reviews here. As per the print edition, they’re all fairly concise – just 250 words. This is of a performance at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall on 18 May 2015.
There’s more than one great conductor / orchestra partnership in Birmingham. Michael Seal has been principal conductor of the Sinfonia of Birmingham since 2002, and they’ve grown together. To hear them is to experience something that’s rare even with professional orchestras: a conductor who knows exactly how to get the best from his orchestra, and a band that knows exactly how to respond. We’ve heard things from this team at Sutton Coldfield that, for pure musicality and communicative power, have far outstripped certain big-name concerts at Symphony Hall.
Those thoughts followed naturally from a performance of Nielsen’s Four Temperaments symphony that seemed to make every one of those points: taut, powerful and ebullient, yet with moments both of lyrical sweetness and real danger. Seal found space for detail, and to let his players sing (the Sinfonia has a wonderfully characterful woodwind section) while still maintaining the long line of the symphony’s architecture and propelling the music forward. The third, “melancholic”, movement grew imperceptibly from expressive oboe and cor anglais solos to two positively volcanic climaxes: the Sinfonia’s low brass made the floor shake.
Earlier, we’d heard violinist Charlotte Moseley in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto; an accomplished, energetic performance with a big heart – the tone of her lower strings as she duetted with the clarinet in the Canzonetta was particularly treasurable. And Sibelius’ Finlandia grew as if in one single phrase from snarling opening to defiant finish. The last time we heard it done so convincingly, the conductor was Sakari Oramo.