This was a super concert, with breathtaking conducting by Daniele Rustioni and exquisitely sensitive playing by Tasmin Little in Mendelssohn’s much-loved violin concerto.

The evening’s opener was Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite. First performed in 1937, this was written as film music. The suite comprises five movements depicting Kijé’s fictitious life – these are rich and varied in their orchestration, showcasing many orchestral colours. From off-stage bugle solos, performed with smooth-as-silk playing, to the evocative, smoky sound of the tenor saxophone, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra totally beguiled us under the charismatic direction of Rustioni. His flamboyant podium presence was at once playful, expressive and enjoyable to watch, eliciting a riveting performance from the orchestra, with agile, responsive and dramatic playing that never flagged. A particular highlight was a crisply attacked Troika, taken at a truly cracking pace!

Tasmin Little © Benjamin Ealovega
Tasmin Little
© Benjamin Ealovega

Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, premiered in 1845, is elegant and eternally fresh; its three movements are linked skilfully together so the piece plays as a cohesive whole. Taken at a brisk pace, the first movement was not over-sentimentalised. Little played with great panache and virtuosity in the tutti sections, whilst still paying due deference to the solo passages. It was great to see such obvious warmth and rapport between Little, Rustioni and the BSO's leader. Her performance of the cadenza was of particular note, played with great authority and style. Little has the ability to subtly reduce the size of any hall in which she plays, making the music-making process feel a very intimate affair indeed. The Andante was both subtly and delicately played, still with great romantic expression, while the finale was adroitly dispatched as soloist, conductor and orchestra danced in unity to a breathtaking conclusion.

The second half of this concert was devoted to “Winter Daydreams”, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 1, premiered in 1868, a work sadly under-exposed in concert halls. Rustioni conducted with tremendous energy, passion and expression, eliciting a thrilling performance from the orchestra which held the audience rapt from start to finish. Tchaikovsky always retained a warm affection for this symphony, describing it “…a sin of my sweet youth”, and when played with such verve and enthusiasm, one can certainly see why.

The opening movement “Dreams of a winter journey” was played with vigour and an abundance of restless harnessed energy, the main theme skilfully darting through the orchestra. Dynamic and tempi changes were crisply and authoritatively handled, creating a great sense of drama and excitement throughout. “Land of Desolation, land of mists”, the second movement, was played with great warmth and expressiveness by strings; the haunting oboe solo was both beautiful and poignant, and the movement also showcased some fine, expansive horn playing. The Scherzo, with all the grace and lightness of Mendelssohn, was played with smooth dynamic light and shade, and the Trio, Tchaikovsky at his most lyrical, was played with great charm. The Finale was stunning – crisp, energetic playing, plus a surging explosive energy emanating from Rustioni, delivered with great confidence and authority, with a superbly handled build-up to a terrific climax. The orchestra was on fire as they tore up the stage with a truly exhilarating performance.