A fine concert after a fussy start

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Club Scene with Sam Cherry

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Portsmouth Guildhall

Fussy, mannered phrasing at the start screamed ‘See how clever I am’, and it seemed we were in for a long evening in the company of young Latvian conductor Ainars Rubikis. But not so.

Once he had the long orchestral introduction to the Brahms violin concerto out of the way, and once soloist Tasmin Little had reached the liberating cadenza and imposed her own personality on the performance, the music both sang and danced effectively, the Hungarian elements catching fire irresistibly with full encouragement from Rubikis.

His way with Schubert’s Unfinished symphony then proved masterly. This was a darkly dramatic account, with a rare quality of pin-dropping pianissimos, trombones lending their own imposing character to the score as they should, and all the expected expressiveness from woodwind soloists.

Finally came a sensationally colourful and well co-ordinated performance of Stravinsky’s 1919 suite from his Firebird ballet, highlighted by a series of magical solos. Above all, Chris Cooper proved in the Berceuse how richly, soulfully lyrical the bassoon can be. Ultimately, then, another fine BSO concert.