Having closely followed the career of Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, I am pleased to publish the review ( 4 stars) of her first concert as Music Director of the CBSO, published in the Times newspaper dated 18 November 2016.
First fire, then a sunrise. And, to cap it all, the awakening of nature at dawn. In orchestral works by Raminta Serksnyte, Haydn and Mahler, the message was clear: this was a time for exciting beginnings. And Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra burnt bright in their first concert of their first season together, after the Lithuanian’s front-page-news appointment as the music director not so many months ago.
This was a chance to suss out what the partnership might have in store and judging by the sold-out house audiences are keen to hear this team. Their recent Prom was warmly welcomed in these pages and Grazinyte-Tyla’s graceful technique noted. And quite honestly I was mesmerised. Every sweeping gesture of the arms, every flick and curl of the fingers was musical and expressive. Yet most importantly her animation translated into the music’s sound and shape, with transparent textures, lively detail and natural tempos.
Expect thoughtful, varied programmes too if this well-chosen trio was anything to go by. Serksnyte’s Fires was an arresting concert-opener, a 2010 work from Grazinyte-Tyla’s home country given a focused UK premiere. Next, not a concerto, but Haydn’s Symphony No 6 (Le Matin) — aptly, he wrote this at the start of a new job. It’s packed with solos for the orchestral players and from pearly flute to characterful bassoon and double bass duet the CBSO musicians sparkled. And there was room for the work’s wit and daring.
I don’t think it was just thanks to Haydn’s genial glow that Grazinyte-Tyla’s Mahler Symphony No 1 felt more joyous than many interpretations. She brought out the first movement’s dewy freshness and gave us a boot-stamping Ländler. There was menace in the eerie sleepwalk of the Frère Jacques third movement, set up by quiet, unsentimental double basses. At times the silky string tone felt as though it could do with more heft, but it was a minor caveat forgotten by the time the finale’s frenzied cataclysm had transformed into brass-crowned jubilation.