Tchaikovsky's much admired reputation grew by leaps and bounds between the completion  of his tortured Fourth Symphony in 1878 and the première of his Fifth in 1888. Despite this reputation based on the virtuosity and lyricism and his contrapuntal skill, Tchaikovsky's confidence faltered to such an extent he believed his composing days could be over and he should devote his efforts to growing flowers.

Alexander Vedernikov © Marco Borggreve
Alexander Vedernikov
© Marco Borggreve

Meanwhile, plucking a phrase from Glinka's A Life for the Tsar showed  Tchaikovsky's state of mind evolving from that of the tortured Fourth to the sorrowful complete resignation of fate in the Fifth. Fortunately the fate held the possibilityof happiness.

The recurring main theme, which links the four movements, sometimes dubbed the 'fate theme', offered Oliver Jones' the opportunity to open the movement with beautiful clarinet playing, echoed by Joshua Wilson's delightful bassoon efforts. Both returned towards the end of the movement in the most dramatic form. This gives way to one of Tchaikovsy's most beloved themes, a poignant and seductive horn melody led by Elspeth Dutch before a dramatic interruption from Matthew Hardy's fierce timpani playing, something he also achieved at the beginning of the evening during Tchaikovsky's The Tempest

During an evening of huge plusses with outstanding individual performances, the CBSO was well led by Zoe Beyers, firmly established as a very successful leader of the orchestra. With a Russian conductor, Alexander Vedernikov, very much at home with an all-Russian programme, the strong CBSO audience following was in for a treat. It is a sheer joy to listen to – and watch – the crisp pizzicato playing of the cello desks and those of the double basses.

Dance-like themes open the minor key third movement – probably his fateful theme seeking happiness. Vedernikov showed his supreme confidence in the CBSO's capability, allowing Beyers to lead the playful runs in the strings before taking back the leadership for the furiously driven fourth movement with the many delicate shaded woodwind passages acknowledged with nods of approval by a very pleased conductor. He deliberately sought the hands of the several brass, wind and string players at the end of a superb performance.

Continuing CBSO's 2016 tribute to Shakespeare, the night opened with Tchaikovsky's The Tempest, based on magician Prospero's attempt to shipwreck Ferdinand before renouncing his power of magic and seeking forgiveness. The CBSO created the perfect storm with blazing horns, thundering timpani and bass drum and dynamic string playing building a glorious climax.

Tasmin Little's much anticipated visit to Symphony Hall to play Glazunov's Violin Concerto in A minor was one of those occasions when the question is asked: Why do we not hear more of his works? Confidencce pervades Little's performances: she led a crisply articulated dialogue with Beyers and the first violins before excelling in the cadenza with its extensive double-stopping demands. She accomplished these challenges with huge success. Glazunov's works are frequently full of folk and dance tunes, on this occasion allowing both Little and the CBSO to sparkle. Indeed, as the excellent programmes notes revealed, even the glockenspiel glittered as Little delivered a brilliant finish.

*****