Welcoming Mirga

Simon Hale is impressed by the CBSO’s new arrival.

In a concert programme devoted to love there was no doubt that the new music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra found a way to her audience’s heart.

The diminutive Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducted a full-strength orchestra at Symphony Hall with so much energy and verve that you felt something had to give – as indeed it did when her baton flew out of her hand in the final bars of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

With the confidence to give a split-second shrug at the slip, the 29-year-old Lithuanian still brought the work to its passionate conclusion with aplomb – and to a roar of approval.

This young maestro brilliantly conjured up the composer’s despair but also moments of joy through a pulsating brass rhythm and a glorious lushness from the strings.
In a pencil-thin black dress, Mirga launched into her inaugural concert as CBSO music director with a sparkling and spellbinding rendition of true love conquering all in the Overture to Mozart’s Magic Flute.

Leading Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan then demonstrated her outstanding technique with an extraordinary performance of Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you, a half-hour monologue using words spoken by Shakespeare’s Ophelia.

Taking a theatrical poise in her flowing pink gown, she gave an effortless-sounding ethereal performance of eerie beauty that defied key or melody.The challenging work was given a reception even more fulsome as Mirga welcomed Abrahamsen on to the stage with a charm that continued throughout the concert.

But Mirga wasn’t content to simply go up to each section of the orchestra to invite them to reap the continual applause. For to great amusement, she carried the music stand of triangle-player Toby Kearney nearer the podium for his prominent role in the final variation and coda from Tchaikovsky’s ballet Sleeping Beauty, which was added as an encore. Love and laughter clearly promise to be part of the new chapter in the history of the CBSO.

*Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the CBSO repeated the Symphony Hall programme the following night at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the 2016 Proms season, and BBC4 will be broadcasting a recording at 7pm on Sunday, September 4th.

3 thoughts on “Welcoming Mirga

  1. Still find it mind boggling that journalists need to comment on the attire of a female conductor. No-one sees a review of Sir Simon Rattle ‘wearing a sparkling cummerbund and figure-hugging tailcoat’. Come on people, we’re in the 21st century here….

  2. I disagree. There are numerous references in reviews to Rattle’s ‘traditional cummerbund’ and his tailcoats and waistcoats. They are part of his image and part of his presence on the podium. The same is true for all conductors, male and female…Mirga G-T will have chosen carefully what she wore, perhaps because she liked the dress, perhaps because she felt it was appropriate to the occasion and what she wanted to convey about herself or the music, perhaps for some other reason (I imagine that the same also applies to Barbara Hannigan). With Andris Nelsons, Sakari Oramo and other CBSO regulars their attire was generally known to Symphony Hall audiences and thus did not need to be commented upon in every review. That is not yet the case with Mirga so a degree of description about her is I think entirely justified and there was nothing disrespectful or patronising about the reviewers reference to her appearance..

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