THE concert began with an unscheduled item, Rachmaninov’s Vocalise. It was played in memory of former BSO principal conductor Yakov Kreizberg who died three days earlier, aged 51.
Andrew Litton, who preceded him in that role and is now conductor laureate, directed the piece with moving, unsentimentalised restraint.
The programme’s three scheduled items all had structural points of interest, and the one that seems loosest emerged most successfully.
This was largely down to soloist Nicola Benedetti in Szymanowski’s first violin concerto, the work with which she clinched the BBC Young Musician title in 2004.
With her magnetic personality, and her command of tone ranging from shimmering silver to voluptuous fire, she was able to bind together the music’s often exotic melodic stream and heighten its emotional intensity.
In Liszt’s Les Preludes, Litton was unable to overcome the wonder that such cleverness in thematic construction ends in such emptiness of rhetoric, and in Rachmaninov’s third symphony the only structure to make complete sense was the combination of slow movement and scherzo.
The first movement seemed particularly episodic in this performance, but in the finale the rush to the winning post brought the house down as Litton’s Rachmaninov invariably does.
As for the orchestral playing itself, the BSO continues to maintain an astonishingly high level of form despite continuing inconsistencies in personnel in key positions.