It was great to see Karabits back on the podium in fine form for his first BSO concert since the Christmas break. It may have been an absolutely freezing night in Poole but the BSO under Karabits, treated us to a heart-warming evening of life-affirming music, world-class music-making.

Berlioz’s overture Le corsaire, composed in 1844, written in Nice while he was recovering from the break-up of his marriage and suicide attempt, is unreservedly upbeat. Originally given the title Le corsaire rouge, alluding to Fenimore Cooper's’ novel The Red Rover, it has all the swashbuckling musical swagger one would expect from a story about a pirate. Kirill Karabits directed the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with his customary vigour, energy and enthusiasm, effortlessly eliciting an exuberant depiction of life on the ocean waves.

Yulianna Avdeeva © Harald Hoffmann
Yulianna Avdeeva
© Harald Hoffmann

Chopin’s Piano Concerto no. 2 in F minor, composed in 1830, brims with passion and energy. Yulianna Avdeeva rose to fame in 2010 when she won first prize in the Chopin Competition. She describes the Second as a work expressing many different emotions, full of youthful hope and dreams, and very much “one of her soul pieces”. The first movement, having a double exposition, provides the opportunity for both orchestra and piano to take their turn to shine. The orchestra delivered an assertive introduction paving the way for Avdeeva, who played with power, conviction and authority, and held the audience rapt from beginning to end. Karabits and the BSO provided a sensitive accompaniment to Avdeeva’s virtuosic skill throughout, supporting but never over-powering her, as they skilfully played as one through the twists and turns of Chopin’s beautiful music.

The exquisitely romantic second movement was written with Constantia Gladkowska in mind, with whom the young composer was infatuated at the time. He wrote, “Six months have elapsed, and I have not yet exchanged a syllable with her of whom I dream every night. While my thoughts were with her, I composed the Adagio for my concerto.” This very much sets the scene for a piece expressing Chopin’s unrequited love and will resonate, especially, with any young gentleman in love! Written in the form of an extended nocturne, this was played with warmth and sensitivity, and passion in the central section. Avdeeva very much captured the dream-like quality of the quieter, reflective passages with an unhurried and totally relaxed delivery.

The third movement begins with a mazurka-like tune, and heralds a spirited and energetic finale in which Avdeeva was attentively accompanied by the orchestra; she played with a crisp panache which never faltered, bringing to an end a very elegant and brilliantly played performance. A very welcome encore, Chopin’s Mazurka in D major Op.33, no. 2, was played great dexterity, and was warmly received by the audience.

Schumann’s Symphony no. 2 in C major, completed in 1846, was written when he was suffering from depression, and very much depicts his struggle with this. Beethovenian in style, Schumann himself confessed that he felt “a lot better’ after writing it. “But, apart from that, it is a souvenir of a dark period.”

The first movement is a maelstrom of emotion; Schumann’s struggle and inner conflict is clearly rubbing shoulders with the glimpses of hope he felt and, sometimes, even the occasional light at the end of the tunnel can be heard. This was a fine performance, emphasising the music’s inherent and insistent rhythms, as well as its light and shade. It was a more upbeat reading than some, carefully restricting the emotional range of the work, focusing tightly on Schumann’s triumph over his depression – perhaps a stronger sense of Beethovenian storm and passion would have elicited more emotional drama.

The second movement, in direct contrast to the first, is optimistic and playful in character, and goes to great lengths to assert these emotions, both in the Scherzo and the trio section. Karabits led the BSO in a very jaunty and enthusiastic performance, full of musical high jinks and humour. The Adagio is infused with over-indulgent aching melancholy – it is both lyrical and reflective in nature. Karabits’ didn’t wallow in this too much and succeeded in maintaining an upbeat mood, despite the inherent nature of the music – treating us to a work of delicate beauty rather than sadness.

The Finale is again much more optimistic and Karabits’ encouraged the BSO to enjoy this to the full.  A rumbustious opening, led us into a movement of pure joy and exultation for life, rounding off an altogether excellent concert.

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