This proved a perfect night for lovers of grand statements and big tunes.
The BSO was joined in Lighthouse, Poole, by the tremendous violinist Alena Baeva and led by award-winning conductor Tianyi Lu, both visiting the us for the first time.
Their programme had three sumptuous works, two from the 1870s, representing the heart of the romantic repertoire, and offering a tasty sandwich filled by one of the great twentieth century violin concertos.
The opening work, Puccini’s Preludio Sinfonico brought delicate playing from the orchestra and reminded us that there is some beautiful music by this composer beyond his operatic canon. Ms Lu brought out a sense of drama, unleashing the BSO’s imposing brass at the climax of the piece, before allowing the serene mood of the opening to reassert itself.
There is something welcoming and optimistic about the opening of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto which was emphasised in Ms Baeva’s performance. The soaring lines floating above some occasionally stormy orchestral accompaniment seemed to suggest a truly human reaction to trouble and stress. The hauntingly lovely Andante, launched by Ed Kay’s exquisite oboe solo, grew and bloomed as it progressed until it came to a restful end before the fireworks of the concert’s title were let off in the Presto in Moto Perpetuo finale. Just Wow! Agitated, demanding and incredibly exciting, the music offered a wonderful contrast to everything before. The storm of applause at the end was completely warranted. The encore was an ethereal vision from Eugene Ysaӱe’s Violin Sonata No 5, L’Aurore.
After the interval, came the chance to enjoy meeting again a friend – old or new according to circumstance – in Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. From the opening fanfares this performance pulled us into the story of the composer’s battle with fate which may not exactly be our story but which has a universal power to engage. Surely everyone can appreciate it in their own way. Ms Lu shaped the overall progress of the symphony so that the ambiguous final victory was something in which we could all share – in the complex spirit the composer apparently intended. Delight seemed real, yet the interruption of fate certainly left is mark.
Throughout the evening, the playing of the BSO underlined the vitality of live music. Conductor, players and audience were all there together in one living, shared experience, reminding us how lucky we are to have this fantastic orchestra working among us.