Review: The Arts Desk, CBSO,Saffron Walden ****

Published on The Arts Desk (

Young conductor leads dynamic and detailed Haydn, Szymanowski and Dvořák

by Gavin Dixon


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With Andris Nelsons now moved to pastures new, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is without a chief conductor, so for this performance in Saffron Walden (repeating a programme given in Birmingham) it worked with a guest at the podium, the young Israeli Lahav Shani. At only 27, he’s something of a prodigy, winner of the prestigious Bamberg competition and now making his debut appearances with the world’s great orchestras.

Technically, Shani is an accomplished leader, with excellent baton technique and clear ideas about the sound he is looking for. He also has an excellent ear for detail. That tight control can sometimes work against him though, constraining the players and leading to some angular phrasing, especially from the woodwind soloists. But the gains outweigh the losses, and his disciplined and driven readings showed the CBSO in its best light for a varied and often dazzling afternoon of music.

Benedetti’s free and lyrical playing came as a breath of fresh air…