Conducted by Mikhail Tatarnikov, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra presented another all-Russian programme with exciting, crowd-pleasing music. If the bill of fare was somewhat unimaginative then these excellent performances more than compensated. Two musical giants from the last two centuries rubbed shoulders with a composer whose first ballet score Spartacus holds its place in the repertoire on the strength of its Adagio’s celebrated use in the BBC’s The Onedin Line in the 1970s.

Mikhail Tatarnikov © Askonas Holt
Mikhail Tatarnikov
© Askonas Holt

There was much to admire in this account of the Khachaturian, most memorably in its opening pages where Tatarnikov drew eloquent woodwind solos and finely balanced string tone – violins judging to perfection the weight of their repeated-note patterns. Double basses provided a wonderfully sonorous underbelly and the whole was paced with a clear view for its dramatic arch. Just occasionally accompanying figures were too conspicuous, but in broad terms this was a handsome, well-shaped performance.

A year after its first performance in 1956 by the Kirov ballet, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto no. 2 in F major was premiered by his son Maxim, then graduating from the Moscow Conservatory. It’s an uncharacteristically cheerful work which the composer himself dismissed as having “no artistic value”, but one that might be seen as a relaxation from more serious artistic concerns. Soloist Boris Giltburg underlined the playfulness of the concerto’s outer movements; bringing clear tone and crisp articulation to the torrent of octaves in the first, and plenty of bite to the cat-and-mouse antics of the third. Its feverish scales were delivered with gusto and the BSO strings provided incisive support, at times evoking a swarm of angry wasps. In the central Andante, Giltburg charmed with a delicate, bone china tone, conjuring a dreamy, almost English wistfulness (redolent of Finzi), its cloudless horizons complemented by honeyed strings. At the end, wistfulness returned in the shape of Scriabin’s Etude in C sharp minor, Op.2 no. 1, rapt and heart-easing.

Following the interval came Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 5 in E minor, a programmatic work traversing brooding intensity to determined optimism, its dark, noble character apparent at the outset in the depth of tone from double basses. From its sombre beginning, and eloquent clarinet, there unfolded a well-paced movement, Tatarnikov generating plenty of momentum (without ever rushing) and ample energy with well-projected brass and timpani adding zest to its dramas. With minimum pause the Andante cantabile began; lower strings purring beneath an impressive horn solo and leading to superbly controlled climaxes. The waltz movement could have been lighter on its feet but had just enough sweep to evoke society ball-gowns, and the Finale was an adrenalin-fuelled affair, with playing as robust and joyous as I’ve heard from this orchestra. Earth-shattering timpani and majestic brass provided the life-blood here in an account that left one in no doubt that Tchaikovsky was shaking his fist at Fate. The BSO was on blazing form, holding nothing back and playing with total conviction.

The evening hadn’t quite finished and concluded with a spirited rendition of Khachaturian’s Lezghinka from his ballet Gayaneh.