On a rain-soaked evening in Hampshire, Basingstoke's Anvil provided welcome comfort in the form of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. The BSO is a busy professional touring outfit that enjoys high popularity in the South West of England - from Exeter to Bristol to its Poole base (don't worry, Poole is just round the corner from Bournemouth, lest you think the orchestra had abandoned its original home). Its well-reputed Ukranian conductor Kirill Karabits has the ability to breathe new life into old material, and also enjoys a successful career as an opera conductor.

Andreas Ottensamer © Anatol Kotte | Mercury Classics/DG
Andreas Ottensamer
© Anatol Kotte | Mercury Classics/DG

The BSO is not known for contemporary repertoire, but offers competent, energised renditions of various better-known composers, in recent years including in-depth explorations of the Russian canon. Tonight's concert – mid way through a 2014/15 series covering "great symphonies" – was one of those competent, easily swallowed performances. The title "Heavenly Adagio" referred to the Adagio sections of the two works on the programme, one a concerto, one a symphony. Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A major exudes context. Written in 1791, the busy final year of the composer's life, it has many hallmarks of his style; memorable melodies and operatic traits (he wrote two operas that year). There's joy, wistfulness and laughter in perfect balance, quite something considering Mozart life was certainly not in perfect balance.

The concerto featured clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer who, while still only in his mid twenties, also holds a principal position with the Berliner Philharmoniker. Ottensamer was a bold and characterful presence on stage, even when he wasn't playing. However – and I'm not sure whether this was intentional – it was initially hard to separate the sound of soloist from the orchestra; they blended almost too well and the clarinet often sounded a little underpowered. But Ottensamer grew into his performance to deliver the well-known themes with confidence, while the orchestral playing was well-balanced and dynamically interesting. It just about avoided tipping over into indulgence in the beautiful Adagio movement, as a relaxed-looking Karabits coaxed the orchestra along and the soloist clearly enjoyed his melody. The third and final movement was the most engaging; the score seems to suddenly stop taking itself seriously and the opera buffa style tunes were given just enough personality. Injections of enthusiasm from the wind section put some wit into the performance. This was a competent, enjoyable interpretation which offered little to challenge, but was very well received by a sizeable audience.

In contrast, Bruckner's Symphony no.7 in E major is an assertive, eventful work which seemed to appeal to Karabits' sense of drama. With little to link it to the Mozart apart from having a memorable Adagio, it dwarfed the former with its grand style. The work offered much in the way of contrasts and gave every section of the orchestra their turn to shine over the four and a half movements (the extra half being a distinctive Trio embedded within the third). The second Adagio movement was written when Bruckner was anticipating Wagner's death - he described it as funeral music for the German. It includes the biggest of the work's several ear-splitting climaxes, in this version complete with cymbal crash. Although the main three-note theme is repeated for what feels like too long, Karabits sustained it well, working up effective peaks of energy. The brass section did not hold back, belting out with crisp sonority when required.

The more delicate moments came across as a little exposed but it was the big climaxes which made an impression – that is in part attributable to the acoustic, which carries the full orchestral sound right to the back. Again speaking of Wagner, the finale to the opening Allegro moderato does have a distinctly Wagnerian ring to it. Perhaps Bruckner's mastery as an organist also drew him toward grand chords which simultaneously punch through and linger in the air. Whatever the influence, the resounding final statements were firm and triumphant tonight, fortified by strong brass and timpani. The swollen cello section deserves mention for gutsy, lyrical rendering of a theme early in the movement, achieving a strong sound. After the second movement, the Scherzo offered a juxtaposition of delicate motifs with dark, insistent rhythms. Karabits enhanced a sense of drama here which carried through to the finale, which introduces yet more melodic ideas and rhythmic interplay before coming to an inevitable loud final chord led by the brass. Again, this was enthusiastically received by the audience, although again, it was not a revelation. All in all, this was a solid performance by a consistent and flexible orchestra.