The confident facility of youth was allied to maturity of musical instincts in Chinese-born Monica Zhenyu Shi’s performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3.
It was the 18-year-old’s prize for winning the SSO Concerto Award at last year’s Portsmouth Music Festival, and here concert-goers were winners too – dazzled by the virtuosity of her first-movement cadenza, moved by her natural poetry in the Largo and enchanted by her sparkling, unrushed phrasing and rhythms in the finale.
She let the music’s own character breathe freely, even though the piano itself was not top-of-the-range, and was a credit to her South Downs College teacher, Valentina Seferinova - who herself then took part in Stravinsky’s 1945 Firebird Suite.
This performance was one of the SSO’s finest achievements, with conductor Steve Tanner securing intense concentration, vivid colours and sharp rhythms from the players. The Infernal Dance was truly sensational and solos were of rare quality.