CBSO Boreyko

Lieutenant Kijé – Suite, Op.60
Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129
Symphony No.10 in E minor, Op.93

Truls Mørk (cello)

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Andrey Boreyko

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 5 October, 2004
Venue: Symphony Hall, Birmingham

One of the most interesting aspects of a UK concert season is the appearance of conductors touted abroad but as yet little known here. Such is Andrey Boreyko – the young Russian widely respected in Canada and Europe, tonight making his debut with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. With a podium manner notable for its precision and economy, Boreyko follows more in the lineage of Mravinsky and Pletnev rather than the overtly demonstrative approach of Svetlanov or Gergiev.

You would be hard put to hear an account of Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé suite of greater clarity and expressive poise. True, pacing in the ‘Romance’ could have been a little more accommodating to the hard-pressed double bass soloist, while ‘Kijé’s Wedding’ and the famous ‘Troika’ was crisply dispatched if lacking respectively in humour and exhilaration. Most convincing were the depictions of Kijé’s birth and burial – given here with just the right combination of pathos and whimsy, and with a superimposing of themes near the close of the latter section that aptly evoked a surreal sense of déja-vu.
In common with most of his present-day compatriots, Boreyko clearly (rightly!) sees Shostakovich as a focal-point of the modern orchestral repertoire, and this performance of the Tenth Symphony was evidently the result of considerable thought on his part. Not that it was an unqualified success: in particular, the separate delineating of tempo for each of the opening Moderato’s thematic elements made it difficult for the climactic central development to proceed in an unbroken sweep of intensity; Boreyko arguably ‘found the groove’ only in the reprise and coda – given with suitably rapt inwardness.

For all its inherently abstract discourse, the Tenth – in line with many other works by this composer – has in recent years been the subject of extra-musical speculation. Not that this seemed to concern Boreyko, who found a propulsive but non-hysterical energy in the supposed portrait of Stalin that is the Allegro, then steered a sure and eventful course through the cryptic intermingling of monograms relating to the composer and his one-time pupil Elmira Nazirova in the Allegretto – done as a searchingintermezzo that underlined its expressive inscrutability. The Andante introduction to the finale was thoughtful but never heavy-handed, and if others have brought greater cumulative excitement to the Allegro, the sense of defiance behind the triumphant facade of the closing pages was astutely judged.

With the CBSO on generally excellent form, this performance conveyed the many-sided ambiguity of musically the most complete of Shostakovich’s 15 symphonies: a powerful affirmation of enduring values at a time of cultural flux, such as Andrey Boreyko – temperamentally as well as technically – is well-equipped to deliver. Future appearances with this orchestra are keenly anticipated.

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