A review of Sunday’s CSO concert from the Cheltenham Echo/Citizen by Roger Jones
Kenneth Woods revealed a strong empathy for Vaughan Williams’ music in his introduction to the composer’s Fifth Symphony. He followed this up with a convincing performance of this major work which, although composed during World War II, seems to hark back to more placid times.
The slow movement was a profoundly spiritual experience while the closing passacaglia sounded decidedly upbeat as if confident of better times ahead.
While some may dispute Mr Wood’s contention that Schumann’s Second is the greatest symphony written since Beethoven, his tense and driven interpretation certainly confirmed it as as a work of stature. Schumann composed it after his first mental breakdown, and the monumental first movement mirrored his titanic struggle to recover his sanity.
A few rays of hope could be spotted in the bustling Scherzo but a dark mood underpinned it. Nor was there any respite in the Adagio which a strong performance from the string section rendered intensely moving.
However, in the final movement the shadows disappeared and the sunshine returned. Both orchestra and conductor joined wholeheartedly in the jubilation at the composer’s recovery, with the brass leading the way.
Incidentally, I didn’t exactly claim that Schumann 2 was the greatest symphony written since the death of Beethoven, but that 100 years ago there was a broad consensus that it was then the greatest symphony since Beethoven. That said, I don’t disagree with the idea that it is the best, most miraculous and perfectly formed symphony since Beethoven. It’s not the sort of claim I would make, but it’s not one I disagree with either….