Just like visiting a foreign city with its new sights, sounds and smells, a visiting orchestra provides refreshment to one’s aural palate. Last night’s concert introduced us into the new sound world of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) with conductor Kirill Karabits and soloist Simon Trpčeski.

Kirill Karabits © Denis Manokha
Kirill Karabits
© Denis Manokha

Opening Elgar’s In the South (Alassio) with a sharp, stylish sound, Karabits made the music throb with passion and energy. The lyrical strings sang out their melody with all their might while the brass answered with great power. There was a real sense of foreboding with the ominous beat on the drum in the hushed section. The first violist impressed by lovingly encasing the delicate tendrils of his melody in vibrato. Karabits showed himself adept at notching up the excitement, making the music thrill with emotion as it worked its way to its joyous conclusion.

There were many stylish moments in the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto no. 1 but overall this performance failed to grip me. There was perfunctory abruptness to the opening which Karabits took at a smart lick, before slackening off for the celebrated crash-bang-wallop chords on the piano. The trumpets missed their pitch in the quieter F minor section before Trpčeski took off with the agility of a mountain goat, bounding effortlessly over precipitous terrain. It was in the more expansive, lyrical moments where soloist and music really connected, as Trpčeski explored the rich harmonies on offer. The trills of the cadenza possessed a dreamy quality with the melody perfectly etched above it. There were some delightful surprises too. The counterintuitive decrescendo on the chordal arpeggios as it leads to a climax was as idiosyncratic as it was delightful and this brought a freshness to this war horse of a concerto. Some of the big octave passages, however, both in the first movement and particularly the third movement seemed to overheat as some notes were simply swallowed up in the passing excitement. There was delectable orchestral playing in the second movement with both the flute and cello singing their melody lines expressively. Here, Trpčeski captured the zany humour of the prestissimo section with scintillating passagework that bubbled over with good humour.

William Walton’s Symphony no. 1 is tour de force, bristling with acerbic wit and malicious overtones for the most part. The change in tone clearly audible in the last movement to one of optimism and nobility might well be influenced by circumstances in Walton’s private life. As a close friend of Walton’s explained “the trouble was Willie changed girlfriends between movements”. This was the highlight on tonight’s programme. The first movement exuded menace, its rhythms on the strings jagged and the brass taut and sharply executed. Karabits drew searing crescendos from the orchestra, making the music swirl with passion. The BSO emphasised the rhythmic vitality of this movement, imbuing it with a ferocity that was at times apocalyptic in character.

The second movement Presto con malizia was brusque with sharp accents from the cellos and manic timpani outbursts. Here Karabits strictly controlled the dynamics from sinister pianissimos to malevolent sforzandos which helped drive the music headlong towards its destructive end. The flute melody of the third movement Andante con malinconia wafted lazily upwards. Karabits didn’t overplay either the sentiment or the melancholy but allowed the bittersweet harmonies to be played as such.

In the finale, gone was the malevolence and angst of the other movements only to be replaced by a yeasty optimism. Karabits drew a warm, sunny sound from the violins and the brass while the fugal section bounced merrily along. There was a haunting trumpet solo towards the end before the sonic boom of the whole orchestra brought this symphony and the concert as a whole to a rousing end.