Most concert-goers may have been attracted by Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and Grieg’s first Peer Gynt suite, and they are unlikely to have been disappointed.
Yet Borodin’s second symphony – lesser-known although it is a masterpiece of its kind – was the biggest draw for this listener, simply because it is so rarely performed. Portuguese conductor Rui Pinheiro delivered the score with welcome urgency, setting brisk tempi in the quick movements and encouraging the brass to give rasping weight to Borodin’s strikingly individual harmonies.
The wondrous horn solo in the andante was played securely enough, although without the last touch of magic, but the BSO woodwind playing was characterful throughout. Here young soloist Chloe Hanslip proved herself as big in technique and expressive power as she is small in stature, adopting a fervent, broad-brush approach. She will achieve more subtlety than she felt able to show in face of the need to fill the cathedral with sound. Pinheiro supported her enthusiastically and shaped the Grieg skilfully. The BSO’s first Portsmouth Guildhall concert of the 2011-12 season is on October 13.