When Conductor Laureate Andrew Litton is back home with the BSO, a splendid evening can always be relied upon. He spoke warmly about his 40-year association with the BSO and his delight in “turning left at Ringwood” on his journeys from London. His huge experience conducting the New York City Ballet made his choice of dance music especially appropriate and the BSO responded with its typical open-hearted enthusiasm.

The Fairy’s Kiss Divertimento by Stravinsky made a joyful opening, with Stravinsky’s take on Tchaikovsky’s piano music offering multiple themes for the orchestra to get its teeth into, all wrapped in ingenious orchestrations, all worth seeing as well as hearing.

The concerto in the first half of the programme – Saint-Saëns Second Piano Concerto – was played with subtlety and verve by Simon Trpčeski who is noted not just for his remarkable technique but also for the way he extracts feeling from the piano. In this case there was both excitement and charm in the playing, but especially a warm understanding with the orchestra, with which he has played for over 20 years. Given the composer’s appreciation of the way soloist and orchestra must operate together, this accord was a vital element of a beautiful performance.

After the interval, two works by Ravel brough the waltz into focus. The Valses Nobles and Sentimentales offered a nuanced and stylish approach to a simple dance rhythm. The elegance of the dance was projected, yet also the sensuality of this decidedly French take on the Viennese waltz. Lovely playing crowned the whole experience.

Played without a break from the above, and concluding the evening, Ravel’s La Valse was one of those pieces after which nothing much will sound well. The orchestra threw itself into this enigmatic work with vigour. Moments of super-sweet tenderness were shadowed by disconcertingly dark twists and turns, each confidently conveyed by the instrumentalists. As the music spun to its climax like a motor accelerating out of control to its ultimate destruction, Mr Litton’s grasp of all that was going on was sure and steady.

We are lucky that, while the world seems fuller than ever of troubles, there is always the BSO bringing the thrill and power of live music to the South and Southwest.  Here is balm for troubled souls!

Tom Wickson

If you missed this concert, fear not! The Digital Concert is available to view until 11 May here