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 by the CBSO on 29th October 2015.
Daniele Rustioni is nothing if not watchable. Small and dapper with a mop of floppy hair, he darts, he gesticulates, he bounces clear into the air. And in this CBSO concert he rocketed straight out of the blocks with a suave, streamlined account of Dvorak’s Carnival overture that left a midweek matinee crowd yelling with excitement.
It was easy to hear the strengths of this 32-year old Italian, whose spirited, idiomatic conducting was probably the best thing about WNO’s 2013 Donizetti Tudor trilogy. Rustioni can shape a phrase and make it sing (who mentioned bel canto?): he way he accompanied Kyle Horch’s creamy sax solo in Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition was almost sensuous. He takes a tactile pleasure in orchestral colours, bringing out the succulence of a pizzicato chord, and subtly pointing up a quiet bottom note from the bass clarinet.
His weaknesses – well, wasn’t it Richard Strauss who advised young conductors never to look at the brass: it only encourages them? And there was the strange, frustrating business of a Brahms Violin Concerto that never quite sounded at ease: fidgety, foursquare and punctuated by noisy blasts. Soloist Vadim Gluzman’s wiry tone and workmanlike delivery probably didn’t help, though it was noticeable that even in the Dvorak, Rustioni was cheerfully summoning up the kind of fortissimos that Sakari Oramo used to save for the end of Mahler symphonies.
But it was hard not to thrill to the jangling, tingling conclusion of Rustioni’s Pictures at an Exhibition, or to enjoy the full-fat low string sound of Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle, and the way Rustioni made Gnomus dance. To experience this kind of freshness and verve in such a familiar warhorse is reason enough to hope that we see Rustioni at Symphony Hall again.