Two Russian symphonies conspicuously designed in three movements and a Polish violin concerto conceived in a single, unbroken span formed the menu for an evening entitled “Electrifying Rhythms” at Poole’s Lighthouse. And so the strapline very nearly proved worthy of its name – since the rhythmic impulse behind the Szymanowski is hardly electrifying and the Rachmaninov’s more expansive passages are given more to romantic yearning than thrill seeking. Yet, thrills there were from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under American guest conductor Robert Trevino who coaxed wonderful vibrant and meticulously prepared accounts.

Simone Lamsma
© Otto van den Toorn

First off was Stravinsky’s wartime Symphony in Three Movements (1942-5) written as absolute music yet intended to reflect “our arduous time of sharp and shifting events”. This was a vital, pulse-raising account, with the BSO superbly responsive to the composer’s nervous rhythms and chameleon-like sonorities where texture and mood change on the toss of coin. Its numerous chamber-scored passages fared notably well, a clutch of woodwind here, a rasp of brass there, adroit strings and then a piano startling for its brittle dance-like gestures. The central movement was a beautifully polished affair, classical elegance to the fore, honours variously shared by harp and multifarious solo combinations, all delivered with finesse. And on to a gripping finale, secure and sharply delineated with a spiky duet between piano and trombone and building to an edge-of-the-seat climax, its energy and athleticism superbly channelled by Trevino.

Szymanowski Violin Concerto no. 1 (1916) is another wartime work, and its fearsome demands were met with bravado and flawless intonation by Dutch soloist Simone Lamsma. This opulently scored, post romantic work (a synthesis of Debussy, Scriabin and Richard Strauss) alternates ecstatic lyricism with a searching restlessness, both intimate and intense in its shifting moods. Lamsma brought assured playing with a consistent tone, silvery throughout the range, probing its flights of fancy, but not always reaching deeply enough into the work’s extremes of eeriness and exoticism. If occasionally underpowered too in more expansive passages where orchestral balance came into question, there was nonetheless a passionate, forthright engagement with the work mirroring its heart on sleeve expression.

The opening of Rachmaninov’s Symphony no. 3 in A minor unfolded with magical calm and led to an involving and rousing account with much sensitivity in respect of balance. It was gratifying to hear the first movement’s exposition repeat – also given when last performed at the Lighthouse in January 2017, but curiously absent on the composer’s own recording – and warming to hear that fabulous cello theme played as if “smiling through tears”, heart-easing and wonderfully sculpted, yet without Hollywood schmaltz. Horn and two harps were suitably restrained at the beginning of the Adagio, as was Amyn Merchant’s eloquent violin and Oliver Pashley’s silky clarinet both infusing a sunset glow in its closing bars. But it was the gold-plated string tone that impressed, with Trevino moulding the faster central panel into a logical whole. The more discursive Finale captivated for its dancing energy, light on its feet yet incorporating a hard-driven fugato. Cumulative tensions brought to a close an interpretation marked by well-judged climaxes and glorious sweeping vistas – the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra once again on superlative form.